Serialized Fiction: Shadow’s Love – Chapter 3 – Dominate

Amy Sinclair was at home, counting the words in her economics paper. The teacher had set a minimum of five hundred words, but Amy was already up to eight hundred and still counting. Five hundred words was only average, for average losers who were satisfied with average grades, an average college, an average job, and an average life. Amy was considered precocious as a child and was in all the honors classes, most nights studying past twelve. The teacher’s pool had her as valedictorian by a long shot. 

“833, 834, 835, 836!” She finished triumphantly. Her jubilation was somewhat dampened by her inability to secure a round thousand. Maybe she could beef up the part on how the oil situations in the Middle East were affecting economics in the United States. That should secure her an A-plus and the usual fawning the teacher heaped on her. It should also secure another day’s worth of righteous superiority over her brain-dead classmates. 

Satisfied with her plan, she scrolled through the pages she had already written to find the offending paragraph. The Middle East was definitely deserving of more than three measly lines. Something would have to be done. 

A knock at her door interrupted her brain’s processing.

“It’s mom, sweetie. Can I come in?”

Swallowing her impatience to finish her paper, Amy replied, “Yes, it’s open.” Maybe this wouldn’t take long. 

The doorknob turned, and her mother, the adult version of Amy with short brown hair framing her round face, and slight body, poked her head around the corner. “What are you up to, hon?”

“Finishing up an economics paper,” Amy said, idly clicking keys with the air of someone arrested in the middle of their work.

“Oh…well I’m going to bed, I just wanted to tell you goodnight.” Her mother came in and kissed the top of Amy’s head. “Don’t stay up too late, bookworm.”

“I won’t, this should only take another ten minutes or so. Good night, mom,” Amy said, patting her mother’s arm and turning back to the computer. Her mother left, closing the door carefully behind her, and padded down the hall to the room that had been hers alone since Amy’s father Charles had been claimed in a car accident the previous year. 

Amy heard her mother’s footsteps receding down the hall and began typing. “In…addition…to…the…previous…facts…” Amy stopped and tapped her fingernails on her teeth. In addition, she had no idea what. 

Another knock at the door. She sighed. Her mother had become so clingy and needy since Amy’s father died. It was painful, yes, but it was over a year ago. She was interfering with her daughter’s work, breaking her train of concentration and how would Amy ever get to college with interruptions like that constantly? 

“Come in!” she said, a note of exasperation finding its way into her voice. Not taking her eyes from the computer screen, she typed gibberish to give the impression she was still hard at work. She heard the door open, and then close. “What now, mom? I’m trying to work on my economics report,” she whined. “If I get a thousand words-“

“Then your life will be complete?”

Amy gave a little scream and spun around in her chair, her heart racing. Audrey Spencer was standing in her room, leaning on the wall by the window as though she had every right to be there. 

Amy did not know Audrey very well. She had been in a few of Amy’s classes and on the few occasions they had been put together for a group project, Audrey had doodled vacantly most of the time, obviously not paying attention while Amy was outlining what they should do on the project and had produced, in Amy’s opinion, mediocre products of a morbid nature. Most of them were so macabre that Amy simply threw them out and redid them herself. Amy wasn’t afraid of Audrey, but Audrey was weird, always sitting in corners, drawing, listening to her iPod. Until one day she had up and vanished from campus. Amy hardly noticed – she wouldn’t have if they hadn’t been in a group project that had been due the day she vanished.

“What are you doing here? It’s almost midnight, what do you want?”

Audrey did not answer. She just continued staring at Amy. Amy’s constitution began to waver under Audrey’s unflinching gaze but was unwilling to blink first. There was something in Audrey’s eyes, a look she had never seen before, and there was also that – Audrey was looking at her. Audrey never looked at anyone, she was always shrouded in a hoodie sweatshirt and kept her eyes downcast. But now she was staring right back at Amy, for what seemed like the first time, looking as though she would like nothing more than to do something very unpleasant to her. For the first time, Amy felt a stab of fear. 

Audrey smiled, exposing her fangs. 

Amy’s eyes widened and she took a breath to scream but before she could make a sound, Audrey was suddenly at her side. While Amy’s mind struggled to process this, she felt the fangs pierce her neck and now she could scream, but it was a soft sound, more like a squeak. She slapped weakly at Audrey, trying to push her away, but all it did was make Audrey pull Amy closer to her, sinking her fangs in deeper.

There were dark circles dancing in Amy’s vision, slowly getting larger as they did, until finally her body went limp and she stopped struggling. Her mind felt padded with cotton. She could hardly see, she couldn’t think. All she could feel was her blood flowing into Audrey’s mouth. She couldn’t do anything more than let Audrey drain her life out until suddenly, the feeling ended. Amy fell to the floor, what was left of her vision registering another figure in the room, and heard muffled voices.

Free Fiction: Long Time No See by James Peace

It had been at least three years since I had last seen John. I wondered if “best friend” was still applicable, given the circumstances. Somehow semantics were the last thing on my mind. Who left a voicemail in this day and age, anyway? Only John. His social and emotional ineptitude let him feel, think and act with not a single care for what others found acceptable or “in”. I admired that in him. He was the opposite of me, as I was confident and outgoing. I went to the parties, did the drugs, drank the shots. I had my own place way before he even considered leaving his parents’ home. Yet still, in a way, he had always been far more “free” than me.

Of course, that was back when we were in college. After we parted ways, the journey of life took…different routes for each of us. I ended up enlisting and following a boot’s lifestyle for a few years. John collected degrees like stamps and hopped between part-time jobs. We tried to meet up and connect for cultural events or each other’s birthdays. Life inevitably takes its course, though. Over time our get-togethers dwindled from once a month to once a year. For a long while, not even that. By the time I was 26, I hadn’t spoken with the man I loved as a brother in two years. We met at his family’s summer house by the northern coast for a pair of days. Bars, a casino, the beach, and a penthouse all to ourselves. Still, it hadn’t ended on the best of terms.

Three whole years had passed since then and here I was, tripping over every piece of furniture in my house. I dodged the third lego piece behind the corner of the stairwell, saving myself quite a bit of grief, and went down into the basement to get my duffle bag. At times, I had to question whether my son left these out of negligence or if he was trying to show his old man that he could hunt “big animals” too. Adorable little runt.

Throwing the duffle bag over my shoulder, I dialed my wife’s number into my phone. Life in the army, both during and after Bootcamp tended to prepare one for pretty much anything. The habits of getting up early, making one’s bed, and keeping a bag ready for sudden departures hadn’t been lost on me. With the house locked, the dog fed and the woman of my life appeased with promises of a weekend getaway, I threw the bag onto the backseat and left. Unlike my 99 Astra, life sure had a way of coming at you fast. Much like said Astra, though, I took pride in being a tough bone to chew on. After the dishonorable discharge, bouncing back wasn’t the easiest thing in the world yet I did it nonetheless. I took a couple of swigs from my pocket flask to steel myself against the cold and carried on.

On the way, I lost myself to the roads of memory. The teenage years spent with John, playing video games and geeking out with the other nerds in our group of friends. The wild nights of college when I ran out his patience with the latest of my dramas and mischiefs. I remembered the nights I spent having dinner at his place, his parents still sent me a gift when my birthday came along every year. Great people, all of them odd in their own harmless way. These had been some of the best times of my life. Sure, there were mistakes made along the way, but I for one never liked to dwell on the past.

I found the town by sundown and the coastline was deserted as I’d expected. With the rain and the cold, nobody stepped foot in it. His house was pretty isolated, a couple of miles away from the center. It was very characteristic of his family to keep a comfortable distance. As I slowly rolled into his driveway, I could see the lights were already on. I parked the car and took in a deep breath.  I forced down over half of the contents of my flask, replacing the sobering chill with a vigorous burn.

I stepped outside the car, shaking off the tension in my legs and back, and looked over to his porch. There he was, waving down at me with a big grin on his face. His hair was oily and black, his features rough and germanic. You could see a hint of eastern in his eyes. He wore the same black button-up shirt and brown chinos he’d worn three years before when we “made it big”. I missed him with all of my heart. I didn’t bother waving back as I opened the backseat door. Reaching my duffle bag, I grasped around for a small box and cold steel. As I pulled the Winchester M21 out and closed the door, I slid the two slugs into their respective barrels, glancing at the corner of the yard. The small dirt mound was still where I left it. Where I’d left him. I was holding in my right hand the same gun that had blown a hole through John so cleanly that a dessert plate could have easily fit through. Right through his trusting heart. Right through the shirt that thing, whatever it was, was wearing. I’ve never considered myself a man of prejudice, but dead things should stay dead and certainly not leave voicemails to their former friends.

Turning my attention back to “John”, I could see he was no longer waving at me. In fact, he was no longer smiling, either. Swallowing my fear, I took aim.


 

A young author from Western Europe, 24 years old, fascinated by all things horror and interested in publishing his own horror novel. Currently in the military, pursuing future involvement in Special Forces. Loves people, dogs, and the three F’s of life.

Free Fiction : Come Dine With Me by Pete Kijek

I never imagined in a million years that when I submitted the advert in the local paper asking to have someone for dinner, that someone would actually respond!

The advertisement was only short, necessity and a price per word dictated that. ‘Lonely 41-year-old male seeks like-minded individual for evening meal. Non-smoker, pref. non-drinker, must enjoy secluded weekends away and keeping fit.’ I must confess to being somewhat hesitant to submit, yet submit I did and paid for a four-week run. 

Towards the end of the third week, I received a response. A woman from Tettenhall had written back, saying that she wanted to meet! I read through her profile. She was thirty-five, single, no children, and had recently moved to the Midlands from Durham as a mature student. She sounded ideal! 

I wrote back, asking if she wanted to meet for coffee first, as I understood that simply going for dinner with someone could be a bit daunting for a single woman these days. She replied saying that she would be up for coffee, and we arranged to meet the following Saturday in Coffee Moments in the Wulfrun Centre.

I will confess right now, I have never felt so anxious as I did that Saturday sitting at the shopping centre waiting for her to turn up. I had lost count of the number of times I had re-positioned the little Chicaboo monkey on the table in front of me, propped up on the sugar dispenser.

I knew it was her the instant she stopped outside the shop. Light brown hair tied in a loose ponytail, stonewash blue jeggings and a camel-coloured turtle neck jumper, and a purple cross-body tote bag. She wasn’t fat, but not entirely slim either – I guess the politically correct way of putting it was that she had curves, the classic hourglass figure. In short, she was gorgeous! Far too good for the likes of me.

She grabbed herself a cappuccino and came and sat down at my table. Her name was Lauren, and we sat for hours just talking to each other. I had never known anyone to be so attentive in their listening, so engaging in their conversation. I honestly believe that right there and then was the moment I fell in love with her.

We arranged to have dinner the following weekend, at my place. Now, I must confess, I have never hosted anything like a dinner date before. I mean, I’ve seen stuff on TV, but this was the first time I had ever tried something like this myself. Our first meal together had to be something truly special and unforgettable. I even managed to coax the twins from Number 16 down the road to be a part of it, and when they turned up that afternoon, already dressed in smart, waiter/waitress-y clothing, I could not have been more excited!

The doorbell rang just after 7pm, and I went to get the door. Lauren was there in the most stunning little red number, and I ushered her through to the lounge whilst I ran her coat upstairs quickly.

Coming back down, I entered through the dining room, bringing two flutes and a bottle of prosecco with me, the cork already popped. Lauren took a glass, and I poured the fizzing liquid, eliciting a small giggle as I accidentally spilled some on my hand. 

Holding my eye contact, she softly took hold of my hand, bringing it to her lips and lightly licking the prosecco from my skin. To say the evening was already perfect would be an understatement. I had never known a woman like her. She was entirely bewitching, and I was held entranced by her spell.

I beckoned to her to enter the dining room, where I placed the bottle and my glass down on the table before seating her as every gentleman should.

Disappearing briefly into the kitchen, I returned with a small bowl of tomato soup in each hand. I placed Lauren’s bowl before her, then sat down to mine. 

The conversation was magical. I can honestly say I have never laughed so much – we just clicked, if that makes sense? It was like we had known each other for years, for centuries. 

With the soup course over, I stood placing my napkin carefully on the table and suggested she come with me into the kitchen, as I had a surprise for her. This main course would be to die for! Everything had happened so perfectly, running smoothly and according to plan.

Lauren stood and took my hand, as I led her into the kitchen. 

Taking care to walk over the plastic sheeting that covered the floor and every work surface, I led her to the chest freezer on the far side of the kitchen, being careful not to knock the bags containing the somewhat sanguinary corpses of the house’s previous occupants.

Opening the freezer, Lauren’s eyes widened with anticipation as the chilled but very much alive twin children looked up at both of us, abject horror and despair displayed on both their faces. 

Lauren indicated the boy, which was ideal as I had already provisionally hoped to have the girl. Taking them from the chiller, we led them to the huge island table in the centre of the kitchen, laying them down side by side, and taking hold of the knives with which we would prepare our feast.

“You’ve really outdone yourself this time, Claudio,” said Lauren, as she pierced the flesh of the boy, his screams muffled by the tape around his mouth.

I simply looked at her, lovingly, the charade of being strangers evaporating as I opened the girl from collarbone to navel and started peeling the skin back to reveal the tender morsels within.

“Well,” I replied, “I’ve got another hundred and fifty years to think up the next dinner.”


 

 

Once, many moons and 1 failed marriage ago, I started writing a high fantasy novel, on the urging of my now ex-wife. I really enjoyed what I was writing, and probably would’ve carried on had things not gone awry at home. It is now 2021, I have a new wife, and a new novel idea to write about, which I am currently writing. I have also found a penchant for writing horror. I live with my family, emotional support hound, Fallon, and am addicted to Coco Pops and Hula Hoops

Free Fiction: This Year’s Costume by Peter Kijek

 

     “Alice! Where’s my costume?” Danny shouted to his sister from upstairs in his room, “I can’t find it?”

     “Down here, on the sofa, where you left it,” she yelled back as she gathered the suit hanger from the back of the dining room chair. “Come down and get it yourself!”

Danny raced down the staircase and into the lounge with all the haste a nine-year-old boy could muster.

     “This was such a great idea Mum had for Halloween this year!!”

Alice had to admit, this idea did go one better than last year’s costume, where they pretended to be mini demons whilst Dad sat in the car, and they beat the roof with his ‘severed head’. They loved to go all out to provide a real scare for the neighbourhood, and last year’s was horrific but immense fun. They’d moved to a new area shortly after, just before Christmas, and this Halloween was a great chance to not only top last year, but to show the new neighbourhood kids what Halloween was all about.

Upstairs in her room, a typical bedroom for a twelve-year-old girl, she unzipped the case and carefully took out the hanger that held her costume in place. It was perfect, absolutely historically accurate to the turn of the century period. It was a replica of the clothes worn by Susan Buckley who, along with her brother John, was reportedly photographed outside their house with their mother sat between them, axe in Susan’s hand, their mother’s head in John’s. The photograph had since been debunked, with experts claiming to know how the original portrait had been doctored to make it look like the kids had decapitated their poor mother. Whether it was real or not didn’t matter, it was a great urban legend and a great idea for a Halloween costume!

With the dress on, Alice pulled on the boots that came with it and dusted herself down in front of the mirror to flatten out any last-minute creases. Her hair was already tied up in an untidy bun. Brilliant, she thought, I look just like Susan Buckley! She grabbed the small axe from her bed, already stained with blood for that authentic look, and stepped out onto the landing. 

     “Are you ready yet?” she called to Danny, knocking on his bedroom door.  The door opened, and he stepped out, pulling at the collar with one finger to loosen it from chafing him. 

     “This shirt itches,” he complained.

     “That’s the starch,” explained Alice, “It helps with the authenticity.”

The children made their way downstairs, excited at the prospect of their costumes this year. Such a shame that their father wouldn’t be there to see the fruits of their labour, but that was okay, they understood the time of year and that he’d no doubt be buried in something keeping him extremely occupied. 

     “Is Mother ready?” asked Danny as he grabbed the shopping bag from the table.

     “She’s outside, sat on her chair,” replied Alice as she moved towards the front door, “She’s waiting for us. Now, come on! Some of the local kids are coming, I can see the lights from their mobiles.” Opening the door, she ushered Danny outside to the chair on the front lawn where their mother sat.

     “Here they come,” she whispered to her brother, “Get ready! As soon as they see us, they’ll want to take photos, just like the Buckley children!”

Standing on the opposite side of his mother to where Alice was, Danny reached into the shopping bag and pulled out his mother’s head, blood still dripping from the ragged flesh where Alice had hacked it off earlier that afternoon. 

Alice quietly moved her head to one side, to whisper to Danny. “I don’t know how we’re going to top this next year? Here’s hoping Uncle Mark has some good ideas….. ?”

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Once, many moons and 1 failed marriage ago, I started writing a high fantasy novel, on the urging of my now ex-wife. I really enjoyed what I was writing, and probably would’ve carried on had things not gone awry at home. It is now 2022, I have a new wife, and a new novel idea I am currently writing. I have also found a penchant for writing horror. I live with my family, emotional support hound, Fallon, and am addicted to Coco Pops and Hula Hoops. Find Peter on Facebook.

Free Fiction: He is Coming by S.Tierney

Under bough and moonlight, we bide, the twilight breeze fluttering the hems of our white cotton gowns. Behind us, staving the chill while preventing retreat, a semicircle of elders support burning torches, their grimaces of paternal anticipation veiled behind a portrait mask. 

Before us, awaiting us, beckoning us: a fruitless and endless and altogether lifeless density of brambles, an entwined jungle of octopus tentacle with talon-like thorns for suckers. The wind causes the vines to grind together, sounding a scratching akin to a butcher’s tools being sharpened – yet shortly we must attempt to achieve what the moonlight cannot. Upon the dimming of the moon behind a cloud we must penetrate this barbed mass, run headlong into its jagged crush without a moment’s hesitation, all in an attempt to reach the other side. 

This is the way of it–

And so we are away. Gowns flapping. Faces preemptively scrunched. The initial thorns cut the deepest, fangs puncturing, biting our momentum. Immediately we are lodged, imprisoned within nature’s chains. In animal reflex one cannot help but raise their hands to their face, fearing scars and lacerations and the likely loss of an eye. But this is a mistake. Although we are all virgins to this ceremony and therefore inexperienced, the best of us know instinctively that one’s hands are better put to use not in preservation but in parting. Reach for those brambles! Tear them from their roots! Yes, just as our cheeks, our palms will soon be glossy with blood, that loose skin between the fingers spliced from so much snagging; yet these torments must be ignored. We must hasten. Endure. Suffer. Clench. Scream if you must, cry out! But whatever you do, do not hesitate, not even for a moment.

For He is coming.

He moves faster than us, compelled by a purpose comparable with a predator’s lust. He carves through the brambles with all the impulsion of a stag trampling roses, following those paths of least resistance which we have so courteously made ready. Yes, we benefit from a head start, that interval between the thinning of the clouds and the returning of the moon; but He has strength on His side, power, size, and a rampant desire to capture those laggers who have fallen behind. 

Dare you look over your calloused shoulders you would see that His lumbering structure is barnacled with faces. Masks, to be exact, sunken wicker skulls with only a lacquer of meat depicted across the bone. Not only is His face concealed as per the elders; He is draped in masks as though a stone clustered with oysters, His ribs and shins and forearms and spine consumed beneath armor-like myiasis of haunted expressions, each more pained and repentant than the next. This spore of woven faces seems to cry out as He thrusts them through the brambles, the wailing mill of thorn against willow akin to teeth down a blackboard – not that He fosters any heed. The thorns are nothing to Him. He feels no pain. He only wills the chase. His chase. Our chase. With each stride, He surges faster, grows more determined–

Should you maintain the inclination to escape, you must do the same.

It is impossible to know how deep you are into the brambles – it is all one endless, seizing tract. You may have grappled through an acre or an inch of it, for an hour or a lifetime; and all you have to show is a gown torn to ribbons. Your flesh fares little better, gashed raw that it is. At least be thankful that you are still moving, still breathing, even writhing – which is more than can be said for your fellows…

Having previously been cocooned within a company as numerous as a flock of doves, now the flock is dissipating, His ravenous hawk bringing down you fledglings beak by beak. A begging squawk is stifled within the brambles, snuffed out like a candle. Moments later and out goes another. Then another. Between the vines, you catch a flash of cotton as it is snatched away, pale and bloodied. You feel yourself alone, isolated; you fear you too will soon be snatched, for you are freezing and fretting and all-but naked and exhausted to your soul – yet you must endure, just a little further. Another inch. Another lifetime. Look, the brambles are thinning. The light beyond them swells! Of this, you convince yourself if only to drown out the howling reality that He is almost upon you. Within the reflective beads of blood and sweat and dew and tears which cling to the vines ahead, you see His charging form glinting in the moonlight, unblinking eyes staring hungrily, bared teeth snapping like those of a pack of hounds. As though an extension of his wicker the brambles seem to harden, converge, wrap around you. The light…it is so close now. One final push. One final tolerance of laceration and suffering and-

You collapse to a bed of wild and welcoming grass, the brambles renounced behind your swollen ankles. Your breath is hurried, moist exhalations swirling around the smoke from the semicircle of torches which stand over you. An elder in a red gown lifts your head and presses a chalice to your lips. You swallow as best you can – the tart fluid bubbles over your chin. A mask, a robe, and a torch are awarded – and a second sip.

Thankful, you roll over and glance behind you; each indistinguishable from the other, His wicker masks peer out from the brambles, more innumerous than before. 

And then, in accordance with the moon, they recede.

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S. Tierney is an author of novels, comics, and several acclaimed short stories – which have been translated into audiobooks – and the novella ‘Kin’. Find more of his work on Amazon at: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Scott-Tierney/e/B00J21D0O6?ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1&qid=1641651813&sr=8-1

 

Free Fiction: The Mighty One by P. M. Thomas

My mind is like a record, left on playback, constantly looping, never stopping, always repeating the same notes, over and over and over. Ad nauseam.

I’m amazed I’ve lasted as long as I have. Most men would have lost it in less than a year. But not me. For over two decades, I have been hearing the same record play the same tune. From the tender age of a boy, it began – a small note, something others would have ignored, but not I.

I listened to the melody, got caught in its vicious trap, its intrusive cycle. Sealed in the routine of the song, the melody grew stronger every day and thereon, it took total control, dominated my mind, controlled my life.

It almost destroyed me on several occasions. Luckily, I managed to survive; luckily, I managed to hold on to the slither of strength I had left.

I suppose you’re wondering, why don’t I just switch off the record and stop listening to it? I have tried, believe me, dear reader, I have tried.
Every time I attempt to block out the endless loop, it always comes back, louder and louder.
What does my mind play, I hear you ask?

Words. Words of great disturbance, words of darkness, words that must be purified. Cleansed of their evil. Decontaminated with the light of goodness.

Now, I hear you say, they are only words … Can words cause harm?

Oh, dear reader, I shall shed light on why these dark words must be purged of their vileness in order to prevent any harm that their wretchedness could bring.

It’s because of the Mighty One.

Who is that? I hear you wonder. Allow me to explain. The Mighty One is a being of omnipotent power, a being that processes my thoughts in a heartbeat and can make them happen.

The Mighty One resides in the far reaches of my consciousness. We are linked – we are one, it and I. We both determine the fate of the world.

I did not ask for such a heavy responsibility, the Mighty One chose me and made me the guardian of all life. You can’t even begin to imagine how hard it is having to hold all our lives in my mind.

My mind. The battlefield. Where every minute of every hour of every day is spent battling the dark words with the words of salvation.

I know what you’re thinking: I’m crazy.

You could be right. Of course, you could be wrong.

Who’s to say that my mind doesn’t have the power to cause pain and misery if the dark words were ever processed by the Mighty One?

The world is a mystery; who knows what incredible things lurk behind the veil of reality, the mask of sanity, the logic of reason?

There is a good chance it all could be in my head. Maybe I have a disturbed mind that needs to make an average guy like me seem important to the world. Or could there be a phenomenon that this mind of mine contains? My mind … the key to the destruction of someone, of everyone and – worst case scenario – of the whole wide world.

Not to mention, the key to destroying my very self if the words wished to.

Might I be a man with an overactive imagination sparked into overdrive, no longer able to tell reality and fantasy apart? Or might I be a guardian, keeping the world and all lives within the world existing every single day, non-stop?

Whatever I am, I stand on the fine line between life and death, good and evil, light and darkness, purity and corruption, peace and mayhem, hope and doom, existence and oblivion.

I suppose you are wondering by now… what are the dark words that may or may not cause catastrophic effects?

You’re not going to like the answer but I can not tell you what the words are. To even speak of them or write them could cause the catalyst. The dark words must remain sealed in my head.

You may not care about risking the possible end of your life, another life, my life or all life in the world, but I do.

I’m afraid I can not take such a risk to indulge your curiosity.

Fret not, dear reader, for while I am unable to give you the apocalyptic words, I can give you the words of salvation that were given to me by the Mighty One.

And when you read these words, think of the difficult struggle that I, your sole protector, must do to keep you going to bed, safe and sound, every night.

There is no rest for me, there is no peace for me. I have a duty that I must uphold till the day I die.

And to you sceptics out there, those who do not believe me, those who feel I am mad or making this up: continue to live your life as you wish, in bliss.

Whether I am a guardian or not, these are the words I must repeat endlessly to keep you all alive and well as I sit here on my own, day in, day out, locked in my little white room.

 

Oh Mighty One, protect the world.

Oh Mighty One, protect all life.

Oh Mighty One, protect me.

Oh Mighty One, do not unmake the world.

Oh Mighty One, do not unmake all life.

Oh Mighty One, do not unmake me.

Oh Mighty One, never forsake the world.

Oh Mighty One, never forsake all life.

Oh Mighty One, never forsake me.

Oh Mighty One, have mercy on all life.

Oh Mighty One, have mercy on me.

Oh Mighty One, give all life strength.

Oh Mighty One, give me strength.

Please, Mighty One, please.

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P.M. Thomas is an author from Birmingham, UK. He has always had a love and passion for the art of storytelling, especially when it’s associated with horror.   Find more of his work at: https://philipbrocklehurst3.wixsite.com/p-m-thomas

Free Fiction: Seconds Left For Tomorrow Melissa R. Mendelson

The clock hands rested across the nine and the eleven. The red second line convulsed, struggling to break in-between. It pushed forward, then fell back. It refused to give up, shaking so hard that it might just snap, but it slipped forward. An inch forward. It was stuck again.

I closed my eyes. The hum of the lights overhead did not help. The breakdown of the seconds did not help. The shouting outside did not help. If only the world could just stop. Stop for one damn minute.  Let me concentrate, and I closed my eyes, drawing in a breath. Come on. Focus. You can do it. Just focus.

“Damn it! Will you all outside shut the fuck up?” I stared at the thin walls, knowing that they heard me. “Thank you. I need to concentrate.” I sat back in my chair and closed my eyes. “Someone turn off the fucking lights,” and the hum died.

I could see it now. The black, square object spinning wildly. Its hum was silent but deafening. It could not leave its orbit. It was stuck like that red second line, convulsing, threatening to break. I slipped forward, pushed back by its electric field. Never had I dealt with such resistance. I reached for it. My hand touched it. I was thrown against the wall, and the wall cracked.

“What is the obstacle here?” the suit asked.

“The obstacle?” I laughed, wiping the blood from my nose. “It won’t let me near it.”

“So, what’s the problem?”

“Are you deaf, man? It won’t let me near it.”

“Don’t you control that thing?”

“There is no control,” I said. “We have a mutual relationship. At least, we did.” I looked down at the blood on my hand. “Something’s wrong,” I said.

“No shit, buddy. We’re on the brink of war, and we’re barely surviving the viral outbreak. You were our last resort.”

“I’m sorry.” I waited for the suit to help me up. Instead, he sat in my chair. “Sure. Just leave me on the floor,” I said. “I’m fine here.”

“None of us are fine, if we can’t see tomorrow. We need to… I need to know. You’re the man that can see the future, and you need to see if there is a tomorrow.”

“I’m trying! I never had this obstacle before. I could always see tomorrow and the tomorrows after that. Too much is happening right now.”

“There is always something happening in the world,” the suit said.

“No. Not like this. It’s like the floodgates were thrown open, and there are too many variables in play. There might be a tomorrow, but what kind of tomorrow? There might not be a tomorrow, but then what did we do wrong today? What did we do yesterday that set off the end of the world? Let’s face it. We are at the end.”

“Try again. Take a moment, and try again.”

“I’ve been at this all day. I just have this really bad feeling.”

“That it’s over?”

“No. There will be a tomorrow, but not our tomorrow.”

“What does that mean?”

“It means buckle up. Whatever is coming our way, there is no stopping it.”

“So, you’re giving up?”

I didn’t answer him. I knew what I had to do. Something bad was coming. Something really bad, and I didn’t want to see it. There was only one thing left then to escape that fate. I found the black, square object spinning wildly in its orbit. I grabbed hold with both hands this time, and I didn’t let go. The electric field pierced through the fabric of my being. My mind split apart. Before I snapped into oblivion, I caught a glimpse. I saw the world from yesterday, and it was burning in orange flames.

________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

 

Melissa R. Mendelson is a horror, dystopian and science-fiction author,                                                                        whose short stories have been published in Sirens Call Publications,                                                                                        Dark Helix Press and Transmundane Press.

You may find her work at: http://www.melissamendelson.com

Free Fiction: The Bunny Man by BrandonTanczak

The bunny man in the ice cream truck gives girls & boys a cool treat.

But one wrong quip and the bunny man

will take you off your feet! Stowed in the cold turning to ice 

A small debt to pay for not being so nice 

The children dream of aiding the bunny man 

Scooping ice cream according to plan 

No at all being the wiser 

Of the fudge dipped Billy Kaiser. 

The bunny man is not mean or scary 

Just don’t bring up what he did to Terry. 

With his big eyes and long ears floppy 

Crooked bucktooth smile, a hare a tad bit choppy 

The music chimes and the children run 

The bunny man says ‘here comes another, oh what fun’ They rush with glee into the summer heat 

For their frozen mystery treat. 

Billy, Tommy, Ryan, and Jill 

Line up to get their fill 

Vanilla swirl, chocolate sprinkle, and mint chocolate Chip With joy coming from the bunny man’s furry grip 

Poor little Tommy is ready to cry 

He wanted a cone but was short a dime. 

‘How badly do you want it?’ The bunny man replied. Tommy pouts ‘so badly that I could just DIE’ 

The bunny man smirks with a devilish grin 

‘Well, you’re in luck, my friend. Go around back and hop on in’ Tommy runs to back, his eyes wide with wonder 

Not fully understanding of the spell he was under 

The doors kick open and the dry ice mists 

The bunny man’s smile suddenly twists 

Snatching Tommy up rather quick 

The truck speeds off, disappearing like a magic trick 

The next day the bunny man comes back 

Showing the kids his brand new snack 

The children ranted and raved over the new flavor 

Double scoops of Tutti Tommy Craver.

__________________________________________________________________________________________

Brandon Tanczak is a filmmaker and writer from Philadelphia PA.

He and his wife Jill run Jerks Productions, an art collective, and horror film production

team. Jerks specialize in an art-house style of horror focusing more on psychological

and emotionally driven characters and situations rather than blood and gore.

Free Fiction: Cherry Hill By CM Lucas

One last beam of sunlight peeks out from the horizon and reflects off the curves of a spotless Dodge Ram as it hurdles along a dusty service road.                                                                                        

“Where the hell is… Ah! There she is,” says the man as he scratches his salt & pepper beard and attempts to steer while adjusting the collar of his security uniform. His name is Clive Queenan, and he’s running a bit late. Hunching over the steering wheel while adjusting his legs, Clive squint’s as he reaches his destination atop Cherry Hill.

As Clive pulls into the parking lot, he exits his truck, stretches out, and glances at Cherry Hill Psychiatric Hospital. An imposing structure; its cracked bricks glow red in the setting sunlight; its glass-less windows creak while dangling shingles bob in the breeze. Long, slender branches from maple trees surround the building like elongated fingers.

“Christ, this place looks like it went to hell and back,” Clive says, glancing up as his hand rests atop his brow, blocking out the setting sun. 

Clive makes his way to the front door. Flaking paint floats to the ground as he grips the doorknob and enters the dilapidated building.

“Hello?” Clive says, pulling out his cell to check for any missed calls.

“Service sucks out here,” Clive says.

“Hm. Where is this dude?” Clive asks, looking about the foyer. The missing floor tiles and cobweb-draped ceiling are accompanied by an undisturbed layer of dust. 

This place is a tomb… A goddamn creepy tomb, Clive thinks, leaving a trail of footprints in the floor dust.

“Quite the shit pit, am I right?” the booming voice echoes through the foyer and bounces in Clive’s ears as he twists around and peers up at the man standing atop the staircase. The man smiles as he limps down the stairs. The smallest beam of light from the retreating sun peeks through the glass-less windows and reflects off the man’s hairless head. 

“Shit!” Clive says, clutching his chest.

“I scare ya there, buddy?” asks the man as he adjusts his glasses.

“I’m good. You must be, Darren. Sorry I’m late,” Clive says. The man reaches the foyer and hobbles over to Clive with a smirk on his crimson mustached face.

“What the hell’d you do to wind up watchin’ this toilet bowl?” asks the man as he peers up and extends his hand toward Clive for a handshake.

“I volunteered. Double time and a half to watch this place,” Clive says, glancing down, shaking the man’s hand vigorously.

“Skip. Everybody calls me Skip… no clue why, but It seems to suit me,” Skip says.

“Gotta love nicknames, huh? I’m Clive,” Clive says, looking about the area. Skip furrows his brow.

“Clive? You don’t run into too many Clives in Cherry Hill,” Skip says with a smirk on his face.

“No doubt. My mother’s from England. Every time I got my ass kicked in school because of my name, I always remembered to thank her,” Clive says, chuckling. Clive follows Skip as the duo walk through the foyer.

“So, what’d they tell ya about this place?” asks Skip, adjusting his glasses.

“Not much. Just that this place gets ransacked almost nightly,” Clive says, fiddling with his belt.  “Kids trying to hot wire the bulldozers and excavators. All that good stuff.” Clive continues, “not sure why they need two guards for this type of thing, but hey, double-time and a half, who cares,” Clive says as the duo enter a lengthy corridor. Clive glances at the hallway’s calcium and lime-covered concrete walls. The sun-bleached doors and glass-less windows seemingly stretch to infinity.

“When’s this place set to be torn down?” asks Clive as the pair head down the corridor. Skip snickers.

“What? What’s so funny?” asks Clive.

“They tell ya anything else?” asks Skip. Clive furrows his brow.

“No. Like what?” asks Clive.

“Place is supposed to be haunted,” Skip says. Clive stops. Skip twists around to face Clive.

“What do you mean? We’re talking little spooky friends, here?” Clive asks, flashing a smirk.

“Hey, that’s what they say,” Skip says, glancing up at Clive. Skip continues, “Look, I don’t believe in all that ghost tripe. I only believe what I see with these peepers of mine, ya know?” 

“I hear ya. I read about the shit that went on here before it closed down. Way scarier than poltergeists and all that, huh?” Clive says as the pair exit the corridor and enter the basement. Skip hits the light switch and the duo make their way down the creaking stairs.

“Alright, you’re down here. Other than those lil’ bastards tryin’ to take joyrides in the bulldozers, we also find these shits down here screwin’ and smokin’ up,” Skip says.

“I’m watching out for that? Sweet,” Clive says sarcastically.

“The perks, right?” Skip says. “I’ll be up on block A watchin’ paint crack. Have fun,” Skip says, heading upstairs.

“Hey, Skip! Around what time should I-” Clive is interrupted by the slamming of the basement door. 

“Alright, then,” Clive says, sitting down on a small stool. As Clive plays around with his cell, he hears a shuffling in the darkness. Peering up, Clive pays it no mind. The shuffling returns with increased volume. 

“What the hell is that?” Clive asks. Pointing his cell toward the darkness.

“Don’t be that guy, Queenan. Get your shit together,” Clive says. The shuffling, now sounding like erratic footsteps, draws closer. The sound of metal dragging along the ground now accompanying the shuffling.

“Skip?” Clive says softly. A loud crash brings Clive to his feet.

“You’re a funny lil’ bastard, Skippy,” Clive says. Venturing up the stairs, Clive attempts to open the door, only to find it locked. 

“Hey, Ha-ha! Joke’s over. Come on, open the-” the shuffling gets louder. Clive begins to pound on the door.

“Skip… Skip! Open the goddamn door!” Clive says as the noises get louder. 

“Skip!” Clive yells, pounding on the door. He begins to slam into the door as the noises get closer. Clive presses up against the door; he fumbles for his cell and points it down the staircase. The light from the cell illuminates a rat scurrying up the stairs grasping a soup can in its mouth.

“… Fuck me,” Clive says, chuckling. Clive wipes away perspiration from his brow and sinks to the top step as the door opens.

“Fucking hell, Skip. Sorry about that. Wait till I-” Clive stops as he peers up to face Skip.

“… Who are you?” asks Clive.

“I’m Darren. Sorry, I’m so late. I tried to call you, but the reception up here is the shits,” Darren continues, “are you alright? You sounded like you were freaking out down here. What happened?” asks Darren. Clive furrows his brow while staring at Darren.

“Darren? You’re Darren? … Where’s Skip? And why-” Clive asks before Darren interrupts.

“Skip? Who the hell’s Skip?” asks Darren.

“I…,” Clive pauses. 

“Look, man, I get it. No need to be embarrassed or whatever,  the place is fucking spooky. It’s supposedly haunted too,” Darren says,  “Oooo!… Sorry, man. I, uh, I’m not much of a believer in that silly shit, you know?” 

End.

Free Fiction: Itsy Bitsy by Brandon Tanczak

The itsy bitsy spider went down the water spout, which is my shower head. I was going through my normal shower ritual; use the toilet first then shave. I like to shave before I bathe myself to wash off any hairs that would stick. The water runs warming up, steam starts to rise. I grab my toothbrush and paste, I’m a multi-tasker. Before running the shower I went to adjust the shower head and there it was. 

The itsy bitsy spider was hanging out above the shower head basking in the steam, maybe this was part of its shower ritual? I jump and drop my toothbrush and paste it into the tub. I caught my breath, why was I scared? Sure, it has more legs than me and pointy teeth that may or may not contain a venom that will paralyze me giving it the opportune time to lay its eggs inside my eyes! 

But I am ten times larger and the bigger we are the harder we fall. I did the only thing I knew to do. I ran and grabbed a shoe! After wrapping a towel around myself, of course, I am not letting myself be THAT exposed. Having eggs laid in your eyes is bad enough but even worse while being naked. 

I grab both shoes, you know just to be safe. I make a loud CLAP, spider sandwich hold the mayo. The crushed corpse falls into the tub, no egg-laying today! I run the water to let the corpse wash down the drain and proceed to shower. I bathe just like you one body part at a time. I lather my hair with my two-in-one conditioner/shampoo, I am a multitasker remember? I let it sit while I wash the rest of my skeleton sack I call a body, then move on to my teeth. Brush, rise, spit. 

Now, the final task of rinsing the two in one out of my hair. I turn the heat down and let the water cool. GLUG GLUG comes from the drain, I pay it no mind. I close my eyes and dunk my head under the cold water. GLUG GLUG grows louder, faintly heard over the rushing water. I keep my eyes closed and bask in the water and let myself melt. 

POP! The drain opens up and a flood of water comes through rushing over my feet. My eyes open and I see the water, must just be building up because I’ve been in here for a while now. I turn the heat back up, turn away from the drain and close my eyes again. I let the steam rise again. GLUG GLUG! Two very large, long, hairy, brown appendages come up from the drain and fight their way out. They extend and something comes through the drain and rises in the steam behind me. 

All of a sudden the water has stopped hitting me. I open my eyes and the room has now gotten darker. I didn’t hear the light bulb blow out, weird. Confused, I turn around, and standing over me I see is a ginormous, brown, hairy, wet spider. The bitsy spider is no longer itsy and now I have a reason to be scared. Not only does it have more legs than me I am one hundred percent sure those pointy teeth are venomous and now it’s ten times larger than me. 

The last thing I remember is its large brown legs wrapping around me. I woke up on the bathroom floor, the shower water is still running and the room is filled with steam. I have this irritating throbbing pain in my left eye and everything is blurry. Must have landed on my face.

___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Brandon Tanczak is a filmmaker and writer from Philadelphia PA.

He and his wife Jill run Jerks Productions, an art collective, and horror film production

team. Jerks specialize in an art-house style of horror focusing more on psychological

and emotionally driven characters and situations rather than blood and gore.

An Excerpt from Northanger, by Emmy Z. Madrigal

na2

Visit just one of the haunted houses in this excerpt from Northanger, by Emmy Z. Madrigal.


“I’m excited to see Woodston,” Kat said.

“It’s just the sort of place you’ll like. With a story you’ll love,” Henry said.

“Oh?”

“Yes.” Henry put down his coffee cup and leaned in to tell her the story. “Mr. Woodston was the grandson of old Mr. Northanger. In 1895, Mr. Woodston built the Woodston house for his fiancée. They went to New York for the wedding but on their way back, Mr. Woodston died in a carriage crash.”

“Oh my God, that’s horrible.”

“His bride was hurt, but recovered only to find herself in the house he’d built for her in secret. The new Mrs. Woodston lived there for a few months, but being so isolated and without her groom, she moved back to the main house with the Northangers and then shortly after, back to her family in New York.”

“Poor lady.”

“And on the same day of her husband’s death, not three years later, she succumbed to a fever and died without ever remarrying. Some blamed her death on a broken heart and there are rumors of the couple haunting Woodston.”

“Really?”

“Yes!” Henry grinned and went on, his voice grave indeed. “First the ghost of young Mr. Woodston, calling out for his bride Julieta. And second, Julieta calling out for her love. Yet, they can never find one another despite searching these many years later.”

Kat drew in an excited gasp. “Have you witnessed these ghosts?”

“No. It is just a story to frighten tourists.” He smiled, relaxing back into his chair. “But perhaps you are more sensitive and will witness them yourself.”

Kat smiled, knowing he was teasing her, but at the same time wondering if she would feel a ghost presence when they visited.

“Oh, here comes Ellen. She probably wants to say goodbye one last time.”

“Last time?”

“Yes, you know, before you’re killed by the ghosts of Woodston.”

Kat scoffed. “You tease.”

***

Henry strapped in a small backpack to the luggage rack and then got on the snowmobile. He offered a hand to Kat and she got on behind him, wrapping her arms around him.

“Hold on!” The snowmobile took off with a burst and she gripped him tighter around the waist. His body was warm and solid underneath the puffy parka he wore. A bump in the road unsettled her and he placed a gloved hand on hers, steading her. Piercing cold air stung her cheeks where her scarf, hat, and goggles met.

Before them, a blanket of white snow stretched out as far as the eye could see. Trees covered in white carved out a path leading to more trees.

The endless bank of trees reminded Kat of the scene in Suspiria where a panicked girl is running through the woods as Suzy looks out the cab window that rainy night she arrives at school. Kat’s eyes searched the trees as they whizzed by. It was daytime, but the trees stretched up so high above them, they blocked out the sunlight, causing the formation of strange shadows in the woods. Her eyes—with the help of her imagination—caused her to see some weird things in the woods. A snow mound became a wolf. The shadow of a tree became a human form.

It must have been twenty minutes before Henry slowed the snowmobile before a dark house looming in the distance. It wasn’t like the visibly scary cartoon haunted houses of The Addams Family or The Munsters. It was more like a retold ghost story, welcoming Kat in like her grandmother’s afghan. It was a place that held stories. A place where you could feel at home and connect with the ghosts of the past at the same time.

“What do you think?” Henry asked, removing his goggles.

Kat pushed down her scarf. “It’s awesome.”

Gazing up at the gray shutters and storm blue trim, Kat imagined a ghost in the window. There wasn’t one really, but the one in her imagination welcomed her home. She’d never seen a picture of Julieta Woodston, but in her imagination, she wore a ghostly white dress and glowed in the frame of the window in the attic.

A flash of Mrs. Havisham from Great Expectations came to Kat. Was there a dining room inside covered in cobwebs?

“Coming?” Henry slung the backpack over one shoulder and held out his hand for her to grasp. She took it and he helped her off the mobile. An icy patch in front of the stairs caused her to pitch forward into his arms. Her breath caught as she looked into his eyes. She could see flecks of gold in his stormy ocean gray.

“You all right?” he asked his rumble out of his chest under her fingertips.

“Y-yes. Yeah, sorry.”

His face was so close, she yearned to kiss him.

He let go of her, all except one hand, which he held as he led her to the door with no other falling incidents. As he opened the door, the ancient house smell surrounded her. Cedar. Old books. A little dust.

“I’ll get a fire started right away. Come in, it will get warm soon.” He closed the front door behind her and clicked on the lights with the loud solid plunk of an old electric switch. The foyer and stairs came alive.

“Oh, wow.”

The stairway was wide and took up half the entryway, leading up to a wide-halled balustrade railed with once-white spindles. The floor was an intricate wooden pattern of Greek design.

There were rooms on both sides of her, but what caught her attention first was an open door upstairs that creaked with movement.

Henry followed her gaze upstairs. “Wind from down here always makes that bedroom door move,” he said in explanation. “Or perhaps it’s the Woodstons welcome welcoming us in.”

Kat smiled.

“Let’s go to the parlor first, so I can start a fire. I promised Ellen I’d keep you warm.”

Kat followed Henry into the room on the right, decorated in light blue and furnished in modest but antique furniture. She took a seat on a dark blue, tufted chair and peeled off her winter gear while Henry started a fire.

The room was pretty and she could tell it would be bright on a sunny day with the curtains open. Compared to the rest of the house, the room was clean and organized. The antiques seemed genuine and even the curtains and wallpaper looked if not new, laundered. The wallpaper was blue and white toile and looked so familiar…and then she remembered a passage in one of her favorite books by Marie Gates.

The wallpaper in blue and white toile housed several families and couples taking advantage of a sunny meadow for picnics and frolicking in the lake. They were so lifelike, I wanted to reach out, pluck them from their ministrations, and place them in my pocket, but that was madness, right? But madness ruled in the house on the hill.

Mad House!” Kat exclaimed. 

Henry grinned. “I wondered if you’d pick up on that.”

“Did you truly redo this room to fit Mad House?”

“No, but when I washed the walls and found it in pretty good condition, I knew I had to keep it.”

“Wise decision.” Kat stared at the little Victorian people in hats and parasols picnicking and awed at the detail of each tiny face.

“Alrighty…fire started, would you like the tour while it warms up the place?”

“Sure.”

Tour the house with Henry and Kat by reading… Northanger.

Free Fiction: Bliss by Webster Grubbs

A man walks silently down an abandoned dusty road. Along the path are vast oceans of waving grass. He paces slowly in silence, focusing on the road in the distance, watching it curve over the horizon. The sun above him crossed over and soon set, drenching the man in blinding shadows. He continues, wading through the drowning darkness. A shimmer of light dances across the field, cast by the full rising moon. 

Over the horizon comes a pair of bright lights, undoubtedly headlights of an approaching vehicle. The man walks on, taking note of the lights as they approached. Soon it was within sight and he stepped to the side of the road, stopping and watching. Upon seeing him, the dusty truck pulls to the side of the road. A lone man exits the vehicle, approaching the stranger slowly.

“Hey, you alright? It’s awful late to be wandering around the back roads.” He says, receiving no response. 

“You deaf or somethin’? It’s dangerous out here. You wouldn’t be the first to get lost out here.” Again, he receives no answer. He approaches the stranger, looking at his face.

“Or maybe you know that. Have I seen you before?”

The stranger turns back to the road and resumes walking. He speaks finally as he leaves. “Maybe so. Been around here for a while; Lotta people seen me here or there.” 

A sheet of rain settles over a small town, filling the air with sounds of water on rusting sheet metal roofs. A hooded man follows the road into the street. He finds his way into the local pub, taking refuge from the rain at a small back table. The locals take note of his presence but ignore him. The few visitors look over their shoulders, curious of the man. No one in the room speaks to him, and they only speak of him in hushed whispers between fleeting glances. 

The man sits, silent and unblinking, staring at the wooden corner wall. He remains deathly still as he waits. An elderly lady gathers her meal and slowly makes her way to the man’s table. She sits across from him and smiles warmly.

“Hope you don’t mind me takin’ a spot here with ya. You seemed kind of lonely. I know people don’t typically prefer to be alone. Tell me, how are ya doin’ ?” She asked, looking up to the man’s young, bearded face. 

He remained silent but did glance at her as she sat.

“Not much of a talker? That’s fine. Some people go on blabbering for too long anyways. Get themselves into all sorts of trouble. Sometimes you just gotta know when to hush up.”

The man nodded slowly, looking back up to the corner of the room. 

“I guess you’re waiting on the rain to stop, yeah? I’ll let you be then.” The lady said, turning to stand.

The man shook his head, looking back to her. “Before you go…would you like to hear an old song? It’s from my childhood, and I quite like it.” He spoke in a half-whisper.

The woman turned back to him and listened as he began softly humming an ancient tune. The old woman found herself enchanted by the song, getting enveloped by the notes of the man’s humming. Moments later the siren’s call was over, and the lady snapped from her trance. 

“Oh, that was pretty.” She exclaimed, looking across to the man. Across from her, however, was an empty seat. Shocked, she looked across the bar, finding it desolate. She looked out the door and saw but a muddy road leading to the building surrounded by carpets of shining broken glass. 

_________________________________________________________________________________________________

 

 

I’m a small-time horror author, writing when I have free time from a busy life.

Free Fiction : In the Space of Insanity by Helen Mihajlovic (Continued)

The Countess was up at dawn as a golden hue enveloped the sky. She had picked out her best clothes, a skirt decorated with silver lace and her petticoat trimmed with silver-gilt stitches. While she was putting on her pearl necklace, there was a knock on her bedchamber door. 

Frederick stood outside her room solemnly holding a letter. 

“Lieutenant Alexandra left at dawn,” said Frederick.

He extended his arm, but the Countess insisted he read the letter to her. 

Frederick read aloud: 

        Dear Countess,

      I must leave for Vienna. I have immensely enjoyed my stay at Castle Adnarim. Our time together has been memorable. 

            Sincerely Lieutenant Christoff Alexandra.  

 

Anger pierced her heart. “He hasn’t mentioned when he will return.” 

Frederick frowned. 

She knew he wouldn’t return, just like all the others. She walked away in a huff.

***

The Countess opened the front door to two new parcels. She helped Frederick carry them inside, fumigating their contents before touching them.  

She spent the entire morning marveling at the emerald lantern clock with a brass dial, large bell and decorative fretwork. But she was most impressed with the archery set, the new bow that she had custom made with a burnished deep red Rosewood, and the arrow’s head and nock were made of gold.   

The Countess spent the remainder of the day with her wooden archery set. She gripped the arrow, extended the bow and regularly hit the target. She fell into a reverie imagining it was Christoff that stood in the place of the target and she aggressively aimed the arrow at him, penetrating his heart, piercing him to his death. Her mouth curled up with delight. 

***

As darkness descended, the Countess listened to the savage wind while she lay in bed; the shutters rattled and the chamber was filled with a chill. She fell into a fearful slumber. 

She stood on a busy road, watching people walking by her; they were gaunt, pale, and with thin sickly frames. They trembled with a burning fever as they drew nearer to her; she felt surrounded by their fits of coughing. She looked with horror onto their swollen heads as they grabbed her hair and poked her limbs. She heard their discordant tongues, their pangs of fury and anguished pleas.   

The Countess woke drenched in perspiration and her limbs trembled.

***

The Countess had instructed Frederick to prepare her bath at dawn, but Frederick had fallen ill again and therefore the Countess had to prepare her own bath. She shut all the curtains; the light would aggravate the throbbing migraine that always ensued her nightmares.  

The darkened room was filled with perfumes: bowls with grains of musk and jasmine flowers. She removed her silk bathrobe and climbed into the tub; the warmth of the water enveloped her skin. For a moment she felt peace. 

But as she glanced down at the rim of the bath, her breath grew erratic. Tiny creatures crawled on the edge of her bathtub. She reached for a brush and squashed them, but one of the creatures fell into the water, frantically moving its long legs. She poked at it, trying to pull it out with the brush. But when she reached for the candle by the tub to better see where the creature had crawled to, the water was clear and there was no sign of the squashed arachnids. It had been the shadows of her imagination. 

It was not until the late afternoon that the Countess’ migraine had gone. She’d heard someone knocking on the door in the morning with a delivery but had felt too unwell to answer. She opened the front door to a bright afternoon sunlight. Squinting, she brought the parcel inside, fumigated it thoroughly. The parcel contained a fencing foil with an intricately etched handle. It was made in Spain. 

She held the fencing foil up and stood with one foot forward and the other back on the damp grass. Frederick was feeling better and obeyed the Countess’ instruction to join her. His hand wobbled as he held the foil.  

“En garde,” said the Countess. She advanced towards Frederick, who retreated with anxiety. 

The dark night descended; the Countess’ blade shone in the moonlight. 

At dinnertime, Frederick vanished, she suspected he’d returned to the castle to prepare the meal. 

The Countess roamed amongst the barren trees, the decaying leaves at her feet, and an odor of dampness filled the garden. She stopped at a tall oak tree with its twisted branches; the cool breeze stroked her skin. 

But when she heard footsteps behind her, she quickly turned and was surrounded by three people whose shadows took unusual shapes. A man stood before her with a long-nose mask, dressed in white; he jumped around like a fool. The man on her left wore a bright-colored, tattered uniform and his face was concealed with a flesh-colored mask, he stood with his chest out, picking up his knees high as he walked around her. A short, scrawny man stood on her right with red and black attire, a flowing cape, and a black mask with a hooked beak. 

“Frederick!” she called. 

Frederick quickly appeared. “They’re the performers from the Commedia dell’arte,” he said. 

 “Get me away from people!” the Countess cried. 

The Countess began to perspire, grew dizzy and fell to the ground.  

***

The Countess woke with a feeling of melancholy and angst and did so for the many mornings that followed. And as the year passed, silver hair had encroached upon her temples and creases had appeared on her forehead. One day as she sat at her desk in the tower, hand resting on her poems, peering at the dark clouds as they shifted in the sky, she grew nervous. A cloud appeared in the shape of a demon, with two hollow eyes and its mouth full of jagged teeth. 

“Frederick!” she called. When there was no answer, she began to worry.

But as she looked down at the pile of poems that she had written, she knew that Frederick, William, the two thieves, Christoff and the performers from the Commedia dell’arte were all imagined: they were the trickery of her senses, imagined through shadows and shapes she had seen, muses for her poetry. 

She grimaced as she thought of what she had really endured. Frederick had died a year before the plague, but she never trusted anyone to replace him. Christoff had been a young man that hadn’t loved her, and she had seen many performances of the Commedia dell’arte, their sinister masks always leaving her terrified. The Countess had missed her brother William and often imagined his ghost. 

Outside the castle a horse whinnied loudly, rousing her from her thoughts. She descended the stairs, peering through the casement. The man on the horse rang a loud bell. 

“The plague has come to an end,” he said and rode into the distance. 

A sudden sense of joy emerged in her. But as she thought deeply of the people who had hurt her, all the death and the love she had longed for that was unrequited; she frowned. 

“Is the world worthy of going back to?” She mumbled to herself. 

She looked at the emptiness of the vast land and the two owls in the oak tree that fought in the harsh cold wind; one owl’s cry resounding sadness as it bled with defeat. It reminded the Countess of the cruelness everywhere.  

“No!” she shouted. “The world is vulgar!”

With trembling hands, she bolted the door shut. 

Dedicated to my beloved Brother Bill. 

© 2021 Helen Mihajlovic  

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Helen Mihajlovic is a published author. Her short story ‘A Dark Love story’ is in the book ‘100 Doors to Madness’ available at Dymocks online bookstore. Other published stories include ‘A Sinister Nature’ and ‘The Temptation of Eve’. All stories are dedicated to her mother and brother.

Free Fiction : In the Space of Insanity by Helen Mihajlovic


The Countess Pamela Bohrer had ridden the carriage for miles as she headed towards the isolated land where the medieval Castle Adnarim rested on a hill. The castle had been passed down through generations of the Bohrer family and the Countess had become the sole heir.  

The castle loomed ahead with its high stone walls and six ominous towers that penetrated the night sky. It had one hundred rooms, seventy fireplaces, lengthy hallways and the rows of heavily barred windows gave the impression that the outside world was forbidden entry.

When the Countess arrived, she entered the dark castle, shivering inside its cold rooms. A damp odor filled the air. The moonlight streaming from the pointed windows faintly lit the vaulted ceilings, the dirty ground, the cracks in the walls, and the decaying marble on the fireplace.

“Frederick!” she yelled. 

The silhouette of her servant appeared in a dim doorway. He was a tall man with hollow cheeks and silver hair, who had served her family for two generations. 

“Welcome back to Adnarim Castle Countess Bohrer,” he said. “How was your trip into town?”

“The plague has spread to Vienna,” she said. Her voice quivered. “Everyone must remain in their houses.” 

Frederick’s hands shook as he attempted to lift her bag; the Countess insisted she would carry the bag herself. 

“I would like dinner served in an hour,” she ordered. 

He gave a nod before she ascended the stairs to her bedchamber. 

In the center of the chamber was an ornamented bed made of dark wood. Around it, rich embroideries hung on the walls and the family coat of arms hung by the door: a silhouette of a chiropteran with crooked wings. 

The Countess jolted when she heard a sudden bang. She lit a candle, looking nervously around the bedchamber. She searched under the bed and behind the purple curtains in case of an intruder.  A moonbeam revealed a moving shadow on the wall. Her heartbeat grew erratic. But when she approached the shadow, it disappeared. 

The Countess grew fearful that her anxious temperament would develop to the neurosis that had frequently tormented her for years; whereby she would see shadows and shapes of all sizes that would take the form of threatening creatures, that were a trickery of her senses. 

She was relieved to find that the open shutters flapping in the wind had caused the shadow. She closed the shutters. But upon hearing a loud groan in the hallway, her blood pulsed. She slowly walked to the chamber door and opened it. 

The hallway floorboards creaked beneath her feet as she headed towards the solemn groaning. It grew louder. As she turned the corner, there stood a pale young man, with large somber eyes and black attire, whose form was transparent; she could see the wall through him. 

For a moment happiness rose in her heart; it was her beloved brother William. But when she remembered more than a decade had passed since his death, her face grew whiter than the ghost.

“William,” she said. 

“I am here to warn you,” he said. 

His grim tone frightened her.  

 “Warn me!” her voice faltered. 

“Two men are coming to Adnarim Castle.”

“Who are they?”

“They are dangerous men who mean you harm.”

“I’ve done no wrong to have an enemy.” 

“They are violent scoundrels.” 

“I have nothing of great value to steal. I have sold most of the jewelry for the maintenance of my properties.” But trepidation overtook her as she remembered the several parcels recently bought from various shops in town that were to be delivered to the castle upon her return.

“They’ll steal any of your possessions they can barter.”

Her bottom lip quivered. “I’m afraid they’ll bring the plague.” 

“You must bolt all the doors and stay inside.”

“I’m all alone,” she said. “There’s no one to protect me.”  She looked to the kindness on his face. He had been the only man who had loved her. 

“I miss you, William.”

“Hold onto calm, dearest sister,” he said. “With shrewd thinking, you will prevail.”

He vanished. 

She ran to every door in the castle and bolted it shut. 

***

The Countess sat at the head of a long rectangular table covered in a rich fabric, on a high chair decorated with whimsical carvings. She glanced at her reflection on the chalice, her dark curls with a few strands of silver hung on her shoulders, her large black eyes had dark circles and she wore a flowing red velvet looped up skirt adorned with red ribbon. 

A momentary sadness crossed the Countess’ face as she looked at the empty seats. Memories of childhood tormented her; she often sat alone in the gardens as a young girl, surrounded by the laughter of children running around the large oak trees. Throughout her life, she had grown accustomed to being alone.

When Frederick’s old limbs hadn’t brought her meal to the table an hour later, she charged into the kitchen and came back with a gold dish weighted with salmon and placed a pitcher filled with mead by its side.  

A loud crack of thunder penetrated the night sky as the Countess ate. She turned towards the opened arched window and a look of fright crossed her eyes. She imagined a bolt of lightning striking her balcony and sparking a wildfire burning Castle Adnarim to ashes. She shut the window, grimacing at the dark clouds as the sudden rain thrashed the pane.  

As she stepped back, a drop of liquid fell on her cheek from a hole in the ceiling. The Countess wondered if the liquid held a perilous nature: a dangerous acid that she imagined scalding her skin, eating away each layer of the flesh and leaving her skull protruding. Her fingers anxiously rose to her cheek, reassured that it was merely a drop of harmless rainwater. She exhaled with relief. 

***

After dinner, the Countess headed to the pointed tower of Adnarim Castle containing the musty smell of the thousands of books lining mahogany circular shelves. A few words were engraved on the wall: Everything is too complicated for human beings to understand.   

The Countess sat behind a wooden desk with a quill pen, ink bottle and parchment. She had often come to the tower to divert her attention from anxious thoughts and would spend hours writing her poetry. 

Her mind was haunted by the vision of her brother’s ghost. 

What if William’s warning were to come true? 

She picked up the quill pen longing for a moment of peace while finishing her poem about a brave soldier and the Zanni trickster as he leapt and tumbled. A hint of a smile emerged on her lips as she lingered in her imagination. 

But a sudden bang outside the castle roused the Countess from her fancies; her quill pen fell to the ground. She peered out the casement onto the moonlit courtyard where strange shadows of two figures advanced. She remembered her brother’s warning; her breath grew louder. 

The Countess descended the stairs. She grasped her head at the loud banging on the doors as the thieves endeavored to break into the castle. 

“Frederick,” she called. 

But there was no answer; Frederick had been ill after dinner and had gone to bed early. She grimaced at the shatter of glass; a rock had found its way between the bars on a window.      

The Countess gasped. Many thoughts racing through her mind, she ran to get her bow and quiver of arrows and then rushed to the balcony. She peered over the ledge and saw the silhouettes of two men: one scrawny and the other portly, both continuing to beat on the doors. 

She watched the silhouettes steal her parcel by the door. She thought of what her brother William had told her. “Hold onto calm, dearest sister. With shrewd thinking, you will prevail.” 

Strangely a moment of calm came over her. She aimed an arrow at the thief with the portly form and kept shooting till he fell dead. She aimed another arrow at the scrawny thief, who, having seen his accomplice fall down dead, began to run. The Countess clenched her teeth as her arrow missed him. She pulled out another arrow from the quiver and took her aim. A wicked gleam crossed her eyes as she struck his head and he fell to the ground in a pool of blood. 

***

For several days afterward, the Countess stood guard on the balcony till a late hour. She peered through a handheld telescope, allowing her to see the far ends of the vast land that surrounded the castle. She regretted not having repaired the drawbridge since her last stay here. 

One night, as she marched up and down the balcony, watching for intruders, she saw a figure on horseback riding towards the castle. She shook with fear. 

“Frederick,” she yelled. 

The shape of a man drew nearer. She quickly ran into the house. There was a loud knock on the door. 

Frederick walked wearily to the door but did not open it. 

“The castle holds arms!” said Frederick.

“Who are you?” asked the Countess, from behind the closed door. 

“I am Lieutenant Christoff Alexandra,” he said. 

“We’re not accepting visitors during the plague,” said the Countess. 

“I am from the far east, there is no plague on that side of the river.”

The Countess and Frederick exchanged a contemplative stare. The Countess hesitantly opened the door. 

The man was masked by the night and she caught shades of a navy-blue uniform. 

“May I speak to the owner of the castle?” he said, removing his hat. 

“I am Countess Pamela Bohrer, the owner of Adnarim Castle,” she said. “You may come inside.”

“Countess Bohrer, I am looking for a place to stay for the night.” He said as he entered. His dark brown eyes held a mischievous stare and ebony curls lined his hat. A hint of a smile crossed the Countess’ lips.

 “I must leave for Vienna in the morning.”

“Frederick, show Lieutenant Alexandra to a bedchamber upstairs.” 

The Lieutenant gave the Countess a lascivious look over his shoulder as he followed Frederick up to his chamber. 

***

The next few days brought forth a settled wind; the Countess was pleased that the Lieutenant had extended his stay at the castle. They roamed the gardens as the swallow sang a pleasing melody, spending afternoons under the Magnolia tree.  

“I am the greatest swordsman in the whole of Austria,” boasted the Lieutenant. He drew out his sword and thrashed the air. “I have fought many battles.”

The Countess’ brows rose, mesmerized by his shiny sword. 

When the Lieutenant finally put away his sword, he took out a book from his coat pocket. It was a collection of poetry by Robert Herrick. He read with a soft voice that the Countess found hard to hear.  

How Love came in, I do not know,

Whether by the eye, or ear, or no;
Or whether with the soul it came,
At first, infused with the same;
Whether in part ’tis here or there,
Or, like the soul, whole everywhere.

The Countess’ smile broadened.

When night fell, they both kept warm by the fireplace after a scrumptious dinner. The Lieutenant reached for the Countess’ hand. He moved closer to her and their figures almost touched.

“Do you like to dance?” he asked. 

“But there’s no music, Christoff,” she said. “I will ask Frederick to play the harpsichord.”

Frederick was seated at the harpsichord in moments. 

Christoff spun her around the room, with his light touch. The Countess lifted her head to the heavenly twangs of the music and they both laughed. 

As they grew weary at the end of the night, the Lieutenant gave her a lustful stare and his lips met hers with fervor. A glimmer of hope emerged in the Countess’ eyes, that she had found love. 

To Be Continued Tomorrow…

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Helen Mihajlovic is a published author. Her short story ‘A Dark Love story’ is in the book ‘100 Doors to Madness’ available at Dymocks online bookstore. Other published stories include ‘A Sinister Nature’ and ‘The Temptation of Eve’. All stories are dedicated to her mother and brother.

Free Fiction: The Amulet By Michael L. McKuin


It was a dark stormy night as the man rummaged the shadow filled rooms. He searched in a panic for an item of desire. The lights went out in the neighborhood, leaving all the surrounding houses without power, including his own. That did not distract the man however from his quest for this unknown relic. His hands searched blindly through dressers, closets, desk drawers, and cabinets.

“You will never find it,” a voice whispered in his ear.

Startled, he fell back against the wall knocking down a picture frame that shattered on impact.

“Get away from me!” he shouted.

The man wiped away the sweat from his brow while he straightened himself, deciding to search another room. The door creaked open when he placed his hand against it and gave the door a push.

“It has to be here,” the man muttered.

“You will never find it,” the voice cackled.

The man placed his hands over his ears in a feeble attempt to block out the disembodied voice.

“Get out of my head!” he screamed.

Laughter could be heard echoing throughout the room, a cacophony of a deranged orchestra. The man cursed at himself for ever buying that damned amulet.

After going to a yard sale a few weeks ago he thought it was a great deal. He remembered that he felt a strange pull towards a table placed on an unkempt lawn. A simple old black box with bizarre writing inscribed on a bone inlay across the surface, he could not take his eyes off of the strange box.

He asked the seller what does it translate to and she replied with a shrug that gave way to her knowledge of the artifact, which was none.

Thinking back on it she seemed delighted that he had shown such great interest. The man lifted the lid to have it rest on the hinges. His interest peaked when he saw what seemed to be writing on the lid’s inside that faced him.

‘Chaos is a friend of mine,’ appeared to be engraved by fingernails. 

An old wrapped-up piece of cloth lay before him. He grabbed a corner of the cloth gently and unfolded it to see the prize underneath. His eyes lit up with wonder at a black stone amulet.

“How much?” he asked hypnotically.

“Five dollars and you can have it,” she said.

The man didn’t even hesitate. Before he knew it he had his wallet out and presented the woman with a five dollar bill. She gladly accepted it and relief spread across her face.

He went to take just the amulet, but the woman stopped him.

“No, you must take the box with it.”

The man stared a moment then shrugged. He closed the lid and took the box home with him.

The first few days were fine until he recalled the box he had bought. He couldn’t understand how he had simply forgotten about it, but paid hardly any attention to the thought. 

He glanced at the box and twirled it in his hands. He opened it and took the amulet out while the box found its way to the trash. He then tried on the amulet and kept it on for a few days.

Within those few days, weird things started to happen. It began with disturbing nightmares and things turning up missing. It had progressed as he started to hear footsteps and thuds all over the house. He had thought someone had broken into his home and was playing a deranged sick game with him. Eventually, the footsteps turned into whispers in the dark and the feeling of being watched. He awoke in the middle of the night having his sheets thrown off the bed and claw marks on his body. He was being haunted by an unforeseen presence, tormented by something evil and beyond this world.

He realized it all started when he took the amulet out of the box. The man went back to the seller’s home and she did not answer the door at first but eventually caved in, and once she had he inquired about the boxed item.

She broke down to tears from the guilt of selling a haunted item to him but was relieved from no longer possessing the box and amulet.

“How do I get it to stop? How do I get rid of the evil?” He pleaded.

She nodded her head. “There is only one way. You must give it to someone else before it drives you mad or kills you.”

The man seemed relieved. “So I’ll give it to someone else! As long as it stops, I don’t care! I will give the amulet to someone.”

The woman shook her head. “Not just the amulet. You must give the box as well.”

The man stood silent. “I threw away the box.”

The woman’s eyes became sad. “Then you cannot get it to stop. Even if you give the amulet away, without the box, the evil will still stay with you.”

Now, later that night, the man searched throughout his dark home in search of the amulet. He put it on the bathroom counter when he took a shower, but afterward, it was gone.

“It was just here!” He shouted. Anxiety slithered its way through his bones whilst he frantically searched the house.

He stopped and roared with frustration. “Where are you?!”

“You will never find it.” The voice laughed menacingly.

He felt a cold hand touch his shoulder. The man spun around to the abysmal void.

“Stop it!”

The laughing shrilled in his ears. He was then pushed down to the floor.

“No! Stop it!” He cried.

The laugh abruptly stopped and he heard a low growl as he felt pulled, dragging him across the hardwood floor and into another dark room. The door slammed shut on its own as his screams filled the night until he was heard from no more.

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Michael L. McKuin is a horror addict in the worst way. He loves cheesy ‘80’s horror movies and even recent ones. He loves horror novels and real-life haunted places. He finds comfort and escape writing his horror novels and short stories. It’s a way of life for him. A dedicated father of three and his kids are everything to him. Michael spends his day haunted and keeps the ghost and demons that plague him close and can’t let them go.  Stay spooky and keep it weird!

Free Fiction : Sticky Hands by Kenedy Blake

“I hate buying groceries,” I mumble, slamming the car door shut with my foot.

Juggling two large bags full of fruits and vegetables, I suddenly realize I forgot my keys and will have to use the spare. I reach under the mat and feel around until I locate the key.

The key slips into the lock with an audible click and I step inside the cabin.

My Maltipoo, Jasmine, comes running down the hallway, barking viciously at my feet. 

“Hey girl, calm down. It’s just me,” I tell her, rolling my eyes. She continues barking.

Still muttering to myself, I enter the kitchen, set the bags on the kitchen counter, and head to the refrigerator. I twist the cap off a soda and take a long drink.

That’s when I see it.

An open bottle of wine, sitting on the kitchen table.

Now, I may be a bit of an oddball, but I’m not crazy. I did not open a bottle of wine today. In fact, I’m actually trying to cut back a bit. So this makes absolutely no sense at all. 

I continue to stare at the bottle of wine, unsure of what to do next. I’m not going to lie, I feel a little freaked out right now. Mind you, I live in the middle of absolutely nowhere. There isn’t anyone around for miles. My eyes dart around the room, searching for anything else out of place.

I don’t see anything unusual, but to be safe I grab a butcher knife from the drawer and quietly make my way to the second floor, checking out each room with caution.

No one in the closets, the bedrooms, or the bathroom. I begin to relax a little bit and go back downstairs to check out the rest of the cabin. The library, living room and laundry room are empty. I head back towards the kitchen and check the hall bathroom on my way. It is clear as well.

Scratching my head, I re-enter the kitchen and put the knife down.

Suddenly my cell phone rings, and I nearly jump out of my skin.

“Hello?” I say.

No reply.

“Hello?” I say again.

No answer.

Shaking my head, I press the end call button and set the phone down next to a pile of mail.

I freeze.

My name, Alistair Hendricks, is completely marked out on every piece of mail. A black, uncapped sharpie lay next to the pile. Fear begins to creep into the pit of my stomach.

Someone or something is screwing with me.

Suddenly I hear a loud thump come from somewhere in the house. The hairs on the back of my neck stand up and my suspicions are confirmed. 

There is either an intruder in my house, or I’m being haunted by a ghost who knows how to open a bottle of Chardonnay. 

I almost stop and laugh at the absurdity of the idea of a ghost, but instead, quickly grab the butcher knife and make my way down the hall towards the library. Peeking around the doorway, I am startled to find a strange man holding a glass of wine, browsing my collection of books.

The man doesn’t look threatening; he actually looks quite at home.

A board under my foot creaks.

Before I can duck out of sight, the man whirls around to face me, sloshing the wine over the top of his glass.

“Who are you?” The man demands. “What are you doing here? This is my house!”

My heart is thumping wildly in my chest, but I try to stay calm.

“Sir” I tell the man, “ I’m going to have to ask you to leave. This is my house. Please leave, or a I will be forced to call the police.”

The man chuckles and sets down his glass of wine. “Are you nuts? What the hell are you talking about? This is my house.” He then sees the knife as in my hand, and in one swift motion pulls a gun out from behind his back.

. “Get out.” He cocks the gun. “Now.” 

I open my mouth to reply, but suddenly everything starts to spin, and I collapse onto the floor

 ***

When I wake up, it is dark outside and it takes me a minute to remember where I am and what happened. 

Then I realize that I can’t remember what happened. And why am I on the floor? My hands feel sticky and gross, and there is a strange smell permeating the air. I then hear a bump near the doorway. I scramble to my feet and flick the light switch.

No one’s there.

It is then I notice the red streaks covering the floor. What is that?

My hands still feel sticky…

Why are my hands sticky? 

Something wet trickles down the side of my face. I stumble into the hall bathroom and gaze into the mirror. A gash the size of a golf ball is on my right temple. I grab a towel, wet it, and dab at the wound. Then I realize the shower is running. I take a deep breath, throw aside the shower curtain expecting to see someone in there, but there is only an empty bucket and mop. I shut the water off. I hear a creaking of floorboards but turn around to find no one. My head feels foggy, and I fight to remember the past how-ever-many hours I was passed out. There are more streaks in the hallway, leading towards the kitchen.

My hands are still sticky…

I stumble along the hallway, following the red streaks like the trail of breadcrumbs from that childhood fairytale, Hansel and Gretel. 

I enter the kitchen and find that the red streaks end at the back door. Taking another step, I nearly trip over a box of trash bags sitting on the floor.  

I glance to my left and see that the open bottle of Chardonnay is still there. Grabbing it by the neck, I carry it over to the sink, pour the still half-full bottle down the drain, and chuck the bottle in the trash bin.

There.

Now to clean up these red streaks. 

My hands are still sticky…

  ***

I twist the cap open on the bottle of ammonia and pour it into a bucket half full of steaming water. I then lug the bucket out of the bathroom and into the library and begin to mop up these terribly messy red streaks. I wish I knew what they were and where they came from.

***

I finish mopping and the floors are now spotless, so I decide to take a break and watch some tv. I end up falling asleep on the couch and I am startled awake hours later by the chiming of the grandfather clock. Six chimes, so it’s 6:00 am. 

I enter the kitchen and begin to make coffee, still desperately trying to remember the strange events of yesterday afternoon. I pour myself a cup of coffee and walk over to the window.  I see my reflection in the windowpane and reach up to touch the wound on my forehead.

What happened yesterday?

  ***

Three weeks later

“Stupid dog,” I mutter, gripping the wooden handle of the shovel tighter. “ Why did I ever get a dog?” I trudge into the woods, my steps slow as not to dump any of the dog crap on my new pajamas. “She makes too much of a mess. I’m going to have to find her another home,” I say to myself as I toss the crap into the woods. It lands on top of a large mound of dirt that curiously resembles a shallow grave. 

That’s absurd, I tell myself, shaking my head. I’m the only one around here. Besides,I’d know if there was a random stranger roaming the woods.

Chuckling to myself, I make my way to the shed and prop the shovel up inside the door.

***

I can’t stop thinking about that mound of dirt. It seems oddly familiar. Like I’ve seen it before, but can’t quite remember why it’s there, or how it got there.

I have to investigate it.

I head to the backyard and once again grab the shovel from the shed. When I reach the mound of dirt just past the tree line, I begin to dig. Fear begins to worm its way into my stomach, as I’m scared as to what I might uncover. 

Suddenly my shovel scrapes against something, 

I stop digging, and as I stare at the strangely familiar pile of dirt, it all comes flooding back to me.

The open bottle of Chardonnay. Marking out my name with a sharpie. The strange man. The flash of a knife. Someone screams.

Suddenly I’m dragging something heavy. Red streaks across the floor. A bottle of ammonia.

My hands become sticky… with something.

Am I crazy?

Following the red streaks…

No, it couldn’t be. I couldn’t possibly have…

Did I kill someone?

A car door slams, shaking me out of my unpleasant reverie. “James?” I hear a woman’s voice call out. “James dear, I’m home.” Then I hear a knock. “Open the door, darling. It’s Lydia. I forgot my house key, and I can’t seem to find the spare…”

Ignoring the woman, I drop to my knees and furiously begin to dig with my hands. No, I couldn’t have killed someone…

The woman continues to call out that man’s name.

Digging, digging…

I am covered in muck and grime but I continue clawing at the dirt like a madman. All of a sudden I feel something that feels like fabric… no, not fabric. I wipe away the last bit of dirt to uncover a large lump of black plastic, accompanied by a horrific smell. 

After gagging a few times, I tear open the trash bag and find…

A body. 

I scrambled backward away from the rotting corpse. Did I kill someone without knowing? Surely not.

I look toward the cabin to see the woman where the woman is. She now has her cell phone out and is dialing a number. Then I faintly hear a phone begin to ring on her end.

Then suddenly, there’s ringing in my pocket. 

I quickly reach for the phone inside my trousers and pull it out to silence it, but then I fumble like an idiot and drop it on the ground. It continues to ring.

I grab the phone, push the end call button, and peer through the tree line at the woman, who seems to stare right at me.

“Hello,?” she calls out putting the phone in her pocket. “James dear? Is that you?”

I crouch down, hoping that she doesn’t see me.

The woman starts walking towards the woods, and in a moment appears through the tree line.

“James?” She looks left and right.

I’m now flat on my stomach behind a large log, and I can only hope that she doesn’t notice the shallow grave I uncovered. How would I ever explain that?

I shift my position and leaves rustle underneath me.

“Hello? Is someone there?” She calls out, trying to see through the thick pines and brush. The woman takes out her cell phone again and begins to dial a number.

The phone in my pocket starts ringing

Crap.

I slowly crawl out from behind the log. There’s no point in hiding now. 

***

“Who are you?!” The woman yells. “Why are you here?”

I am standing before the nameless woman, who looks extremely nervous. She shakily holds a can of pepper spray in her left hand.

“Calm down, ma’am,” I tell her, keeping my eyes on the can of pepper spray. “I’m not going to hurt you. My name is Alistair Hendricks, and I live here.”

“You live where?” the woman asks, still firmly grasping the pepper spray.  

I gestured towards the cabin. “I live in that cabin. That’s my home”.

The woman gives me a strange look. “What are you talking about? My name is Lydia Dosher, and I live in that cabin, along with my husband, James.” She looks around frantically. “Have you seen him?”

Before I can answer, Lydia turns her head to the right and sees the trash bag I’ve uncovered and the corpse that lies within it.

She turns back to face me. “What is that?” Lydia whispers. 

“Ummm….” I stammer, unsure of how to answer her. “I was out here and uncovered it. I’m not sure how it got there…” my voice pitifully trails off.

The woman looks at me with uncertainty, then approaches the grave and kneels down beside it. She keeps staring at the body. Just staring.

Suddenly she scrambles backward and lets out a strangled sob. 

“What? What’s wrong?” I ask.

Lydia turns to me, her eyes wide, face as pale as a ghost. “Th-that’s my husband!” She screeches.  “Someone murdered him and buried his body here!” She begins to wail uncontrollably.

I’m just standing here, unsure of what to do. When Lydia finally stops wailing, she gets to her feet and wipes her eyes, smearing mascara across her left cheek.

“I-I need to call the police,” she sniffs. “They can help figure out who did this.”

Her back is now turned to me as she punches numbers on her cell phone.

I don’t want to do this. I really don’t want to do this. 

But I have no choice.

I pick up the shovel and swing it. The hard metal slams against Lydia’s head with a sickening crack, and the woman slumps to the ground

***

“I’m so terribly sorry that I had to do this,” I tell the dead woman, dropping the shovel. “You seemed so nice. It’s a shame you had to go.”

I stand there in the silence for a good moment, then realize what I have to do.

No one can know about this.

So I grab Lydia by the arms and begin to drag her across the ground towards the grave.

Then I roll her into the shallow hole. She lands on top of James with a thud.

There.

Now to cover them with dirt. 

***

It’s been two days since my experience with the grave and now, no matter where I go, she follows me. 

She simply won’t leave me alone. Even as I sit here on a bench outside The Deli, which is a good 45 minute drive from the cabin.

I turn my head slightly to the left, trying not to make direct eye contact with her. She’s just standing there, staring at me.

I shake my head, turn my gaze away for a moment, then look back.

She’s still there.

But, perhaps she’s not real. Perhaps she is just a hallucination, a fictional product of my stressed and troubled mind. That’s what landed me in the psychiatric facility, after all. Seeing things that aren’t there. I was lucky to escape and find that beautiful cabin I live in. Yes, just a hallucination. 

So I decide to ignore her and take a bite of my sandwich. But all of a sudden the air turns cool around me, and my skin starts to crawl.

I realize, with impending dread, that she is right next to me, and she’s not a hallucination. 

She’s real.

Suddenly, Lydia reaches out and places her cold, dead hand on my shoulder, her long dirty nails digging into my skin. She leans close, her icy breath sending shivers down my spine.  A manic  grin spreads across her dirty, blood-streaked face

“ You’ll never escape me, Alistair,” she says, her voice raspy and cold.  “I’ll always be here. I  will torment you until the day you die, then I’ll torment you some more. You picked the wrong couple to murder, Mr. Hendricks.”

My hands are still sticky

—————————————————————————————————————————————-

Kennedy Blake is an author and mother of three. She enjoys reading, writing, and spending time with her family. Kennedy has been writing since she was nine years old, and has several published works.

Free Fiction : The Photo by CM Lucas

As snow began to fall on that frigid winter morning, Miles Beringer made his way up the rickety staircase into the attic. Every snowfall, he found himself retreating into the dusty, insulation-filled space.

Jam-packed with items collected over the years, Miles would wade through the vast assortment of antiquated nostalgia, sometimes tidying up along the way, but often watching the snow collect on the roof. Miles had come to find that on a winter’s day, nothing was quite like his attic.

“Wow. It’s like somebody comes up here after I clean and ransacks the place,” said Miles as he glanced about the attic.

“Maybe it’s the ghosts,” said Miles, “Nothing better to do!?”

Miles snatched a basketball from a dusty box and began to dribble.

“Beringer makes his way down the court. He fakes right; he shoots… Nothing but net, ladies and gentlemen,” shouted Miles with his arms raised. Miles glanced at a box tucked in a far corner.

Hm. And what secrets might you be hiding within your shadowy, cavernous walls? Glad I don’t talk like that out loud.

Miles made his way over to the old cardboard box. He opened it and began to rummage through its contents.

“I can’t believe it,” said Miles, pulling out an old photo album. Miles opened the old album.

This is crazy. How the hell did I end up with it? Miles thought, peeling back the first page.

Polaroids! Man, I miss them. Damn, I was chunky.‘Just a little baby fat,’ sure, Dad. Oh, no. Shirley, what were you thinking with that hair? Eighties or not, that was just bad.

Miles turned the pages, reliving treasured memories. He comes to the final page and smiles.

“Good times,” said Miles, rising to his feet. A Polaroid falls from the back of the album, landing on the floor. Miles reaches down to retrieve the old photo. As he flipped the picture around, Miles furrowed his brow. Glaring at the Polaroid, he noticed himself in the picture, at his current age.

What the hell is this? I don’t remember this. Of course, I don’t. It’s a frigging Polaroid, genius. They don’t even make those anymore, do they? Where did this come from? This is recent. How? And why would it be up-

A knock at the door forced Miles out of his pondering. He makes his way downstairs and opens the door, revealing a familiar face.

“Hey, Shirl,” said Miles as his dejected expression concerned his guest.

“Hey, Miley… I come at a bad time, or what?” asked Shirley, breathing into her hands and rubbing them vigorously. Shirley makes her way inside. Flipping off her snow-covered boots as she heads into the living room.

“You rearranged the living room. Looks nice. Roomier,” said Shirley, looking about the room. Shirley then returns her gaze to Miles.

“Uh, hello, Little bro! What’s with you?” she asked. Miles peers over at his older sister. Holding up the Polaroid, he hands it to Shirley.

“Do you remember when this was taken?” he asked. Shirley furrows her brow. She then raises her eyebrow and smirks.

“Nice. The Polaroid thing’s a bit much, but it’s nice work. Where’d you get this done?” asked Shirley.

“That’s the thing. I didn’t get it done. I found it up in my attic. It was with one of our old family albums. It was lodged in the back,” he said. Miles pauses, then peers at his older sister.

“Wait, I’m an idiot,” said Miles.

“That’s not breaking news, Miley,” Shirley said with a grin.

“New Year’s Eve. You and Jack were up in the attic. You had this done and put it up there!” said Miles. Shirley glared at Miles, “Ya, Miley. I spend my time having fake pics done up and then plant them in people’s attics during parties.”

“Ok, then what the hell were you two doing up there?” he asked. Shirley continues to view the picture.

“We were…,” Shirley paused. Miles glared at his sister.

“Really? How old are you two?” he said with disgust in his voice.

Shirley remained quiet, squinting as she looked at the Polaroid.

“… Ok, seriously, what is this? Is this one of those holograms that change in the light or whatever?” Miles peered up at Shirley, perplexed. He made his way over as she held the picture up.

“… What the hell? You weren’t in this earlier,” said Miles, his eyes wide.

“What am I doing?” asked Shirley as she continued to squint.

“You look terrified. I-it looks like we’re in the kitchen in this thing,” he said as the pair huddled together.

“This is like one of those ARG deals. And it has Jack written all over it. He loves this shit,” said Shirley, scratching her chin.

“Ok, your husband’s home invasion and privacy issues aside, what do we do?” asked Miles.

“Well, when we did one of these before, we just followed any clues we could find,” Shirley continued, “let’s move into the kitchen.” Miles and Shirley made their way into the kitchen. Miles glances at the photo.

“Look, it changed again. Wait, Why am I?…” Miles paused. Shirley glanced at the Polaroid.

“Is that blood? Looks like you’re being shot or… Shit, Jack! Getting a bit-” Shirley, suddenly startled by the ruckus within the kitchen, peers into the kitchen.

“Ok, get behind me, Shirl. Watch this,” said Miles, grabbing a large glass and filling it with water.

“What are you doing?” she asked.

“It’s Jack. He’s in the basement,” said Miles, making his way toward the basement door. Miles pulls open the door.

“Ah-ha! Game’s ov-” a shotgun blast rings in Shirley’s ears as she falls to the ground. A second blast rips through the siblings as a masked man exits the house.

Ten minutes pass as knocks on the door go unanswered. The door opens as a man enters the house.

“Hey, Miles, Shirley! It’s Jack! You guys here? It’s really coming down out there. Jack glances down at the old photo at his feet. The Polaroid reveals a shocked Jack as he beholds his wife and brother-in-law slain on the kitchen floor.

_____________________________________________________________________________________

CM “Spookas” Lucas is a is an aspiring Horror/Science Fiction writer, a free lance writer of articles and reviews. He has recently joined the HorrorAddicts.net staff of writers. Check out his recent article

Free Fiction : Hungry by Alan Moskowitz

 

Other than a bottle of curdled milk, there was nothing left in the refrigerator.  Desperate, Reynolds grabbed the bottle with a skeletal hand and drank the brutally smelling mess down, hoping for a least some nutrition.  It only took a few moments for his stomach to give it back.   His wasted lungs screamed for air as he coughed up the remains of the milk and sucked in the fetid air.  He threw the offending bottle against the kitchen wall, taking some little pleasure in watching it smash to bits.  He staggered over to the cupboard, his stick-thin legs and exhausted muscles forcing him to maintain his balance by grabbing the edge of the rotting counter as he opened the door. 

Bugs scattered, too fast for his weakened fingers.  He swept the inside of the cabinet, hoping beyond hope that one full precious can of anything may have been missed.  All he felt were the brittle carcasses of dead insects. He moaned in disappointment.

The pain of trying to use his emaciated limbs became too much to bear.  He collapsed onto the floor, surrendering finally to the knowledge that there was no more food, the planet was barren and sterile, and he, like the rest of humanity before him, would starve to death.   He smashed his fists into the floor, raging at the horror of mankind’s stupidity. 

Reynolds woke up screaming, jerking up from the bed, heart pounding in terror.  He looked over at Maria, curled up, peacefully asleep, blonde hair cascading over the blanket.  A dream, only a dream, and a nasty one at that. He took in several breaths, lay back, calming himself.  He gently pulled the cover from her and gagged;  Marie’s rotting skull stared back at him, her once vibrant body withered and emaciated, her wasted flesh sloughed off into puddles of ichors on the blanket.  He moaned in terror, too weak to scream, his vocal cords ravaged.  He looked down at his own devastated body, felt his cold gaunt face.  He tried to cry, but he had no tears left.  

_____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Alan Moskowitz is a retired screen and TV writer living in Colorado enjoying creating genre fiction.

 

To find more of his work see: mosko13@aol.com

Free Fiction : It Came To the Window by J.S. O’connor

“I’ve seen it, Jim. I swear to God, I’ve seen it. Get me a drink to settle my nerves. I would prefer whiskey, but I’ll settle for anything strong and keep them coming. What’s that? I don’t know what ‘it’ was or is, but I’ve seen it just outside my window and I don’t think this is the first time it came to the house, but this is the first time I saw it. Another please, no ice this time and I’ll tell you the story. 

“It was nearly a week back when I first saw the tracks walking my property after work. I guess you could describe them as a large chicken with talons the size of a pocketknife. They were up near the tree line in some mud. Didn’t think anything of it. See a lot of tracks living that close to the woods. I believe that was a Monday. Tuesday the tracks were by the garage, but I still didn’t think anything of it. It wasn’t until I heard it. That’s when I thought something strange was happening.  

“Give me another Jim. Nothing like a good whiskey to settle the nerves. I’ll tell you what I heard. 

“It must have been Wednesday night. It was a hard day of work up at the factory and when I got home, I soon found myself at the bottom of a bottle. I’m not proud to say, but the bottom of the bottle is where I find myself most nights. Well for the last two years … but I don’t need to tell you that story. I reckon the entire town knows about it. But it’s the truth. Sitting by the fire in my chair, I remember it being pretty cold and I fell asleep. Don’t know what time Kirby started barking, must have been close to eleven-thirty or midnight and the dog is just sitting there going crazy at the screen door. 

“Got to admit something Jim, had a funny feeling that night but I played it off that I had too much to drink. I got up from my chair and stumbled to the back door. That damn dog shot off into the night barking. Didn’t think nothing of the dog running off, it’s what he does, and he comes back when he’s good and ready. But that’s when I heard it. I swear, Jim, I don’t know how to describe it. But I heard it. Now I know what you’re thinking, but I have heard every animal from those woods. The sound echoed through the darkness. It’s been three days and I still haven’t seen Kirby. Didn’t sleep the rest of the night. Just sat by the fire with my rifle. 

“Next morning before work I went looking for Kirby. Nothing. No trace. It was like the damn dog just disappeared. No dog tracks. No weird chicken tracks. It was like the night before never happened. When I got home, I picked up where I left off looking for that dog. Still nothing. Didn’t sleep that night and had no bottle and no strange sounds. Everything was silent. 

“Sorry, I’m shaking. No more Jim I think that was my last tonight. Four is enough. 

“Last night was when I saw it. It was at my window, Jim. I sit here not wanting to believe it myself. I had my bottle and my rifle, and I sat myself by the fire. The night was getting late, and my eyes were getting heavy. I must admit that the whiskey kept me from sleep’s grasp and that’s when I saw it. It was looking through my window. Its eyes were a pale blue, I don’t know how else to describe them. Its face was a light grey, but it had no mouth or nose it was just blank. 

“I jumped from my chair, the bottle broke on the floor, and I fired at it. My aim was off and the glass shattered just above its head. But I scared it off, and I ran towards the window. I could see it clearly even though it was pitch black. It ran on all fours like some damn animal, but it wasn’t no animal. Its body was the same color, that light grey, but the body looked more human than the face. I watched it until it got to the tree line and there it stopped and looked back at me.  

“You must think I’m crazy for telling you this and if you don’t, then what I’ll say next will make you think I’m crazy. It spoke to me. How? I don’t know the thing had no mouth, but I heard it. Or maybe it was all in my head, but I heard the word inside enter my brain. I don’t know what it means and I don’t think I do. Then it disappeared off into the woods, and I didn’t stay long either. Got in the truck and drove away, stayed the rest of the night at the motel – most of today too, now that I think about it. Been thinking long and hard about what it told me last night and I got me a feeling that when I get home it will be waiting for me inside my home. 

“Here’s the money for the drinks, Jim. Thanks for listening to an old drunk ramble. Be seeing you soon, maybe.”  

Free Fiction : It Came To The Window by J.S. O’Connor

“I’ve seen it, Jim. I swear to God, I’ve seen it. Get me a drink to settle my nerves. I would prefer whiskey, but I’ll settle for anything strong and keep them coming. What’s that? I don’t know what ‘it’ was or is, but I’ve seen it just outside my window and I don’t think this is the first time it came to the house, but this is the first time I saw it. Another please, no ice this time and I’ll tell you the story. 

“It was nearly a week back when I first saw the tracks walking my property after work. I guess you could describe them as a large chicken with talons the size of a pocketknife. They were up near the tree line in some mud. Didn’t think anything of it. See a lot of tracks living that close to the woods. I believe that was a Monday. Tuesday the tracks were by the garage, but I still didn’t think anything of it. It wasn’t until I heard it. That’s when I thought something strange was happening.  

“Give me another Jim. Nothing like a good whiskey to settle the nerves. I’ll tell you what I heard. 

“It must have been Wednesday night. It was a hard day of work up at the factory and when I got home, I soon found myself at the bottom of a bottle. I’m not proud to say, but the bottom of the bottle is where I find myself most nights. Well for the last two years … but I don’t need to tell you that story. I reckon the entire town knows about it. But it’s the truth. Sitting by the fire in my chair, I remember it being pretty cold and I fell asleep. Don’t know what time Kirby started barking, must have been close to eleven-thirty or midnight and the dog is just sitting there going crazy at the screen door. 

“Got to admit something Jim, I had a funny feeling that night but I played it off that I had too much to drink. I got up from my chair and stumbled to the back door. That damn dog shot off into the night barking. Didn’t think nothing of the dog running off, it’s what he does, and he comes back when he’s good and ready. But that’s when I heard it. I swear, Jim, I don’t know how to describe it. But I heard it. Now I know what you’re thinking, but I have heard every animal from those woods. The sound echoed through the darkness. It’s been three days and I still haven’t seen Kirby. Didn’t sleep the rest of the night. Just sat by the fire with my rifle. 

“Next morning before work I went looking for Kirby. Nothing. No trace. It was like the damn dog just disappeared. No dog tracks. No weird chicken tracks. It was like the night before never happened. When I got home, I picked up where I left off looking for that dog. Still nothing. Didn’t sleep that night and had no bottle and no strange sounds. Everything was silent. 

“Sorry  I’m shaking. No more Jim I think that was my last tonight. Four is enough. 

“Last night was when I saw it. It was at my window, Jim. I sit here not wanting to believe it myself. I had my bottle and my rifle, and I sat myself by the fire. The night was getting late, and my eyes were getting heavy. I must admit that the whiskey kept me from sleep’s grasp and that’s when I saw it. It was looking through my window. Its eyes were a pale blue, I don’t know how else to describe them. Its face was a light grey, but it had no mouth or nose it was just blank. 

“I jumped from my chair, the bottle broke on the floor, and I fired at it. My aim was off and the glass shattered just above its head. But I scared it off, and I ran towards the window. I could see it clearly even though it was pitch black. It ran on all fours like some damn animal, but it wasn’t no animal. Its body was the same color, that light grey, but the body looked more human than the face. I watched it until it got to the tree line and there it stopped and looked back at me.  

“You must think I’m crazy for telling you this and if you don’t, then what I’ll say next will make you think I’m crazy. It spoke to me. How? I don’t know the thing had no mouth, but I heard it. Or maybe it was all in my head, but I heard the word inside enter my brain. I don’t know what it means and I don’t think I do. Then it disappeared off into the woods, and I didn’t stay long either. Got in the truck and drove away, stayed the rest of the night at the motel – most of today too, now that I think about it. Been thinking long and hard about what it told me last night and I got me a feeling that when I get home it will be waiting for me inside my home. 

“Here’s the money for the drinks, Jim. Thanks for listening to an old drunk ramble. Be seeing you soon, maybe.”  

Free Fiction Week: The Invitation by Alice Paige

The Invitation by Alice Paige

The dinner table is set. The two face each other, both smiling sharp smiles highlighted in red lipstick. A smile is a weapon. Both women knew this from childhood. It’s a kind of truth men aren’t aware of. They see the smile, but not the tongue curtained behind the teeth. 

The two women, both with too pale skin, lean forward in their wicker chairs. The blood-red dresses they wear shine and shimmer in the candlelight cast from a ring of quickly melting candles rimming the room. No light shines from the table. There is no room on the table for light as this is where the corpse lies flat on its back, dressed in a black see-through shroud. The corpse’s face is gaunt and grey, desiccated. The old corpse is set out, as if for a funeral viewing. What is a viewing if not invitation to grieve? 

“But this is no funeral,” one of the women says, or perhaps, both the women say at once. They glance towards the single curtained window in the room. 

Outside, the snow falls. It is not a kind snow; it is a hungry snow that drinks sound from the air. The abandoned London streets are swallowed in a blanket of white. This snow mutes sound and is an offering of violence. A silencing. The streets are abandoned, a feat in the heart of London with its sickly, sprawling populace. 

The two women smirk as they stand from the table. Slowly, they walk across the room, bare feet slapping against the dark, wooden floor, the candlelight flickering between their toes. Quickly they move from candle to candle burning clippings of the corpse’s hair. 

“In case you are wondering,” one of the women begins, “this is for you. A welcoming,” the other woman finishes. Each candle flairs as hair burns and smokes. The room is a mix of sick sweetness. There is the potent stench of corpse flesh and burnt hair, but the candles provide a stark, contrasting smell of sweet honey. 

The room fills with a startling sound like rubber bands snapping. The corpse on the table spasms again and again under its shroud as the final clippings of curled, grey hair burn. The legs of the table hop and scrape against the floor.

The two women hurriedly walk to the curtained window together and throw the curtains back. Sickly, grey light spills into the room. The window faces out upon a small, abandoned city square. Both women grab the base of the large window and lift. Painfully chilled air rushes into the room. The sound outside is still muted but, just on the edge of audible perception, there is a labored breathing that seems to invade the room as the window opens. 

The two women walk back over to the table and place their hands atop the corpse. Their fingers slowly intertwine atop the soft, black fabric and their hands rise and fall with the corpse’s chest. The women’s skin goosebumps. They look at one another with cautioned excitement.

 “Are you ready?” they ask the empty room. It is unclear who or what they are speaking to. They wait a moment, and, despite the lack of answer, they seem satisfied. Slowly each woman leans backwards, fingers still locked, and they begin to chant. The two chant in unison at an alarming pace, their bright red lips quickly enunciate each word with a labored intensity. 

“It juts its fingers into the dirt, finds the face beneath, the orbital, the mandible, 

cracks the ossuary, slithers into this shattered church, makes a blasphemous home 

of once  priest, rips the faith root and stem, hungrily gorges on intently scarified 

meaning, is pulled, is plucked, is jutted like sharpened weapon, we call, we demand, 

we twinned sisters, given twinned names, we control the star pointed razor, 

the space beyond space, we space behind face, we who have pulled host from holy grave to give you shape once again demand you take shape once again.”

The twin voices drone on together, echoing off the bare, wooden walls and spill into the town square. 

And that’s when I feel it. A tug in my guts. Not that I have guts. 

It’s a strange sensation, to not have a sense of self until I suddenly have a sense of self. To be thrust into “I” once more. It’s as if I have been here the entire time, watching, but have only now just arrived. The two women fall into silence. I recognize them. We were friends once. Before. Before what? My mind feels like a waterfall climbing to be a river. Entropy turned on itself. A collecting.

My vision shifts as the room rotates, turning on its head. I feel my chest heave and my ribs crack. I cough because I can cough. 

“You’re here,” Emily says. She is the woman to the left of me. Her voice is slightly softer than her sister, Emilia. I could always tell the difference. 

I try to speak but my throat refuses to move. I am on my back. How did I get on my back? I was watching the room from above.

“You need to give it a moment. The body will be able to speak soon,” Emilia says. 

 I glance down to see the shroud covering the corpse’s body. No, not the corpse’s. Mine. My body. I inhabit the corpse. I can feel it around me like swimming in muck. Its skin is so tight. I try to move the tongue in its mouth and the tongue shifts slightly. Suddenly, I can taste. Its mouth, my mouth, tastes like ash and copper. Emily places a hand on my forehead. Her skin is so soft. So alive. 

“We told you nothing would keep us apart Dahlia,” Emily and Emilia say together. 

I scream in this body that is not mine. The corpse’s vocal cords hiss.


Alice Paige is a trans woman, poet, and essayist living in St. Paul, Mn. Her writing largely focuses on topics like mythology and queer love. Her work can be found at FreezeRay Poetry, Crabfat Magazine, Coffin Bell, VASTARIEN, Button Poetry, Luna Station Quarterly and Take A Stand, Art Against Hate: A Raven Chronicles Anthology. She is also a co-host for Outspoken, a Queer Open Mic.

 

https://www.instagram.com/alicegpaige/

Free Fiction Week: July 11 to 17, 2021

 

HorrorAddicts.net is proud to present for your reading pleasure, an entire week of Free Fiction!

Enjoy seven different authors as they bring you tales of tomb raiders, dark assailants,  environmental carnage, strange visitors, rising from the dead, bloody war, and disease.

And be sure to encourage the writers by following links to their work and by leaving encouraging comments! And remember~ Stay Spooky!

 

 

Free Fiction : RELEASING ANGER by Alan Moskowitz

RELEASING ANGER~Written by Alan Moskowitz

Willem looked up with trepidation as the Father swept into the ornate office and took his place behind the worn oak desk, a tight smile on his weathered face.  Willem forced his body to remain still and upright in spite of the nervous energy flowing through him, urging him to leave, to run away.  To make matters worse the Elder ignored Willem as he fussed with the papers, notes and unopened envelopes strewn across the desk.  A bead of sweat rolled down Willem’s face, but he dared not raise his hand to it.

 “Wipe it,” the old man’s voice cracked.  Willem quickly brushed the offending drops away.  The Elder’s mouth twisted into what passed for a smile. “No call for nervousness Son, that is unless you’re not ready for this final meeting.”

Willem remained silent.  Father snapped, “You may talk.”

“I have studied the Book, Father.  I have prayed with the Flock.  I have fasted for a month.  I have stood vigils in the freezing cold, seeking donations, and I have raised many funds for the Holy See.”

“Yes, yes, I know all that. You would not be here otherwise.  Willem, are you still angry?  Do you still hate?  Is there still, after all your training and sacrifice, is there a part of you that hurts that drives you to self-harm?  Think on these things, use what you have learned from the teachings of our Lord, and answer me truly. ” He picked up an ornate letter opener and slit open one of the envelopes on his desk.  He unfolded the paper within and set to reading it, ignoring Willem in the process.

Willem’s lips moved in prayer as he sought that place inside of himself that knows his true self.   He had hated his parents.  Does he still?  They did their best, they said, in spite of his issues.  Their best consisted of locking him in a closet for behaving like a “demon child” as his mother put it; getting “the belt” across his back for a variety of transgressions from breaking a dish to wetting the bed to being a coward, a loser, and “a no-good waste of sperm.” His so-called normal siblings hopped on that bandwagon and teased and tortured him unmercifully until at sixteen, he ran away.  No one searched for him.

Pain, massive pain, mental and physical traveled with him into the streets, where his life only became worse.  He sought refuge in the alleyways and fetid tents of the homeless and useless, an outcast and a pariah.  First, he blamed himself.  But the continued abuse turned that self-loathing into seething anger, a burning hatred for his family and for all those who still spit on him, kicked him and laughed.  It was only a matter of time before he exploded. 

And one night a young woman walked slowly by his filthy hovel and glanced in at him; one more so-called human being dismissing him.  Not this time, he murmured.  He crept after her, bent on doing her harm, making her pay for his lifetime of hurt.  He came up behind her, hands reaching out to strangle her when she suddenly turned and met his red-rimmed gaze.   Her eyes told him that she knew his pain.  And then she smiled at him, pulled him to her, and told him he was wanted and loved.   

She brought him to the Flock and the Father.  He was nurtured with kindness and love and shown that he didn’t need to carry all that pain, hate, and misery.  That The Lord of us all would show him The Way to a better life, through kindness, forgiveness, and passing the word to others. And it was so.  After a year of study, love, and sacrifice and he was complete.

  The Father’s voice broke through his reverie, “Well, my son, as our Lord has said, ‘now or never.’ He chuckled, a thick deep raspy noise, with not a hint of humor.

Willem’s eyes opened wide and bright, the excitement of knowing he would be granted his place in Flock.   “I am ready to forgive all who have harmed me, Father.  I will do our Master’s work for the rest of my life and pray He will welcome me into his arms.” 

The old man stood, that crooked smile curling his lips as he held out his hand to the boy.  “Welcome Son, I see great deeds are to be done.” 

 Willem stood and gripped the Father’s leathery hand in his. “Thank you, Father.”

‘Now go, begin the work, we are eager for you to do the Flock proud.”  Willem bowed once, turned, and left the sacred office.

Willem stood for almost a minute just staring at the familiar door before he pressed the bell.  He twitched at hearing the familiar ring.   Part of him wished no one would answer, but he quashed that idea and stood fast, his duty clear.

The door opened and his mother stood before him, her mouth opened in shock, “Willem?  What is this?  What are you doing here?” 

“I forgive you, Mother.”

She scowled, “for what?”

“The Lord of us all forgives you too.”

“You went and joined a cult?  My God, you’re still an idiot.”

“Not your God, My Lord.  He has cleansed me, taken my pain, so I can forgive you.” 

“Isn’t that nice; tell your Lord I said thanks for nothing,” she muttered, the familiar sarcasm dripping from her mouth.

Willem brought the razor-sharp letter opener out from behind his back and drove it between the two upper left ribs as taught, twisting it as it reached into his mother’s heart.  His mother’s shocked look, fade with her life force as she dropped to the floor.   Willem pulled the opener free, stared down at his mother’s face contorted with pain and confusion.  “Our Lord forgives too, but He does not forget.”

He stepped over her body and went inside, wondering who else was home.


 

Alan Moskowitz is a retired screen and TV writer living in Colorado enjoying creating genre fiction.

 

To find more of his work see: mosko13@aol.com

Gypsy Mob Episode 5 – Childhood

 

In the days Ladez Hammalka was a young boy in an ancient roving Gypsy clan, he remembered hard times, tight belts and empty bellies. He remembered going with his mother to beg on a street corner when he was too young to be on his own. When he reached nine years old, he was sent to find his own street corner along with his brothers and sisters. His mother sometimes went with his father, sometimes on her own, for the more members of their family were out there, the more they would come home with. Living on the public’s kindness, some nights everybody went to bed hungry. 

The Gypsies had no communal property, everything belonged solely to their respective families. There was a code the Gypsies lived by; while they were not above swindling and conning their respective marks, thievery from another within the clan was not tolerated. Ladez Hammalka remembered the screams of those who had found out the hard way as their thieving fingers were severed, before being turned out of the clan for good. But mostly Ladez Hammalka remembered the nights he could not sleep, staring at the ceiling of their tent, hunger growling inside him like a wolf, rocks beneath his back getting larger by each hungry hour. Sometimes he fainted. 

The man who called himself the leader of the clan was a weak individual named Hurfong Sammenz who had been in the position for as long as Ladez had been alive. The rest of the clan possessed no individuals who wanted the responsibility and so they blindly followed Sammenz. They wandered aimlessly across the country, crisscrossing it at random, sometimes buried in snow in the mountains or dehydrating in the desert in August. The older and weaker members of the clan had started expiring before mutterings of removing their leader reached his ears. Rather than take a chance on a violent coup, Sammenz vanished in the night, taking with him as many valuables as he could easily lay his hands on. 

Without a leader, the clan began loosely drifting apart, finally going their own separate ways. The Hammalka family, crammed into two large vans along with everything they owned, never stayed in one place for more than a week before they were told to “move along.” Sometimes these warnings came through official channels; sometimes one of Ladez’s brothers came back to their camp with a broken arm or one of his sisters returned home with a black eye and a split lip, refusing to make eye contact. Then it was time to cram all eight children and all of everyone’s possessions into the two vans again. Over the years as the family grew and the children did likewise, their food situation became more and more dire. More often, all the food went to Mother, who was expecting their next sibling and was eating for two. 

One night, Ladez heard Mother and Father talking outside the tents at night, when they thought the children were all asleep. 

“…can’t go on much longer…”

“…horrible…”

“….no choice.”

“But which?!”

“Shh!”

The voices dropped lower than he could hear, and he fell asleep before he heard another word. 

The next day, the family stopped at a gas station. His parents seemed anxious, glancing at him frequently as the rest of the kids hopped out of the vans, stretching their legs. Elbowing his siblings out of the way, Ladez ran for the store, his stomach churning. Last night, they had eaten from the dumpster of a deli that threw out all its unsold perishable food at closing time. Something had upset his stomach and he was not even sure he could get into the bathroom before everything unloaded in his pants. Bursting through the door, he looked around wildly. 

“Bathroom?” 

The clerk looked up from the register. “Paying customers only.” 

“I’ll buy somethin’, PLEASE…” Ladez said as his stomach gave another almighty creak and groan. 

Another eternal moment as the clerk considered, then nodded towards the back door. “Out the door and to the left.”

Ladez sprinted out the back door and turned left, sobbing with relief as he saw the bathroom door, unoccupied and open. 

When he was certain he was finished, he walked gingerly around the back of the building, picking his way through the overgrowth to make sure the clerk wouldn’t catch sight of him. He was so focused on avoiding the clerk that when he saw his family’s vans pulling out of the station and back onto the main road, it didn’t register until he saw the empty spaces at the pump where the vans had sat. He forgot the burning of his sphincter as he sprinted after the vans on legs that were still weak, yelling hoarsely as they pulled further and further away. Coming to a halt, chest heaving, he watched them drive off down the road, out of his life forever. 

Of course, Ladez didn’t know that yet. Returning to the gas station, he found a spot to wait where he could easily see them returning to pick him up, apologizing profusely for having left him in the commotion of getting everyone back in the car. He would be merciful, he decided, give them some hurt looks and maybe a tear. But he would not rake them over the coals. He loved his family too much for that. 

***

The adult Ladez sat in his motorhome which still reeked of burned flesh. His hand throbbed where he had pierced it, and he flexed it, feeling the torn edges of the puncture knitting together slowly. In a few hours, it would be smooth and unmarked again. 

A rapping at the door of the cruiser opened his eyes. His eldest daughter Zara peered in, her dark eyes wide. “Father?”

“Come, Zara. What have you?”

The girl entered the motorhome, shifting nervously from foot to foot. “There are more men here to see you.”

Ladez raised one bushy eyebrow. “Back for more?”

“They will not enter,” she said, glancing at the door as though to verify it. “They want you to come out and speak to them.”

Something in her tone awoke an uneasy feeling in Ladez, one he had not experienced often. “There is more. Tell me.”

“One of them is darkness,” she said, forking the sign of the Evil Eye at the door. “You should be careful of him.”

Zara had too often been proven correct in her analysis of strangers. This disquiet in her deepened the unease Ladez felt. He stood without speaking, opening the door and stepping out into the night. 

There was a campfire burning outside the camper, casting yellow flickers of light on the faces of the two smaller men standing beside it. Their faces were blank and hard, their arms crossed over expensive suits. The third man towered behind them, a bulky shadow cloaked in darkness, exuding darkness. Ladez, who was nowhere near as sensitive to the auras of others as his daughter Zara, could feel the menace from the tall figure. Unbidden, a chill ran down his spine. 

“What do ye want from me?” he asked, crushing his fear of the tall man down deep where they could not see it. “Do ye come to experience the burning, like yer friends?” He grinned, a smile so fake that the two men could easily tell. 

“We have come to deliver you your last invitation,” Rocco said, his voice flat. “Return wid us to speak wid the Don, or Tony will ‘ave no choice but to make you.” 

The towering figure shifted slightly. Ladez peered into the shadows but could make out nothing but a silhouette. He could smell the menace baking off the man, and tried to keep control of the conversation. 

“And if I don’? You have no power here,” Ladez said dismissively. “I could turn ye to charcoal with a whisper of my will, all t’ree of you.”

Brando laughed and spat into the fire. “Try it.”

Piercing his palm again, Ladez flicked his hand at them and cried “Bur–!” 

Before the word had left his lips, the silhouette had stepped forward, the fire casting light over his chest while leaving his face shrouded in black. Ladez let the word die unfinished as he saw his youngest son, three months old, dangling from the man’s enormous hand by his head. The man held the infant up, his arm straight out. Tendons in his hand stood out as his hand tightened on the child’s skull. Ladez could hear a sickening pop from inside the man’s hand. 

“Now ‘e’s got brain damage,” Rocco said, flicking his cigarette into the fire. “Keep playing wid us and Tony will crush ‘is skull into pulp. Come wid us now, and your boy will just be a little slow in de head. Up to you, Pops.”

Rage and terror fought a bitter battle in Ladez, his child dangling from one enormous hand as the two men in the firelight smirked at him. Behind him, he could hear Zara weeping quietly. 

“I come wi’ you, I have word dat dere be no damage to my family?” Ladez asked, fighting to keep the tremor from his voice. 

“One t’ing at a time, gran’pa,” Brando said. “Let’s go talk to de Don an’ you can hear what he has t’say. Otherwise, Tony’s just getting started.”

Ladez looked over his shoulder at Zara, looking at him with red-rimmed streaming eyes. “Go, papa,” she moaned. “Or they kill us all.”

Turning back, Ladez nodded. “Release me son and I go wi’ you.”

“No, ‘e’ll be coming wid us, in case you get any ideas.” Brando grinned as Tony tucked the little body inside his jacket, where it made only the smallest of bulges. 

Ladez ground his teeth together in impotent fury.

“After you, gramps,” Rocco said, stepping aside and gesturing magnanimously.

Free Fiction : The Letter by J.S. Occonor

The Letter

I sit here at my desk writing my final words for I fear that I shall not live to see the sunrise. The evil that has lurked in my home has become increasingly bold and the scratching on my bedroom door just last night tells me that it is my time.

 But before I get ahead of myself, a brief introduction should be in order as to how this all may have happened. I am Emmitt Newgate, a professor at the local university – a professor of anthropology and archeology, which fate would have it, would be my own downfall. As is one of the boons of my chosen field, I had taken a trip six months ago during the summer for academic fieldwork. Myself, a few colleges in the department, and three of our most successful students found ourselves granted an opportunity to travel to South America to study a number of ancient ruins. 

The trip itself was not unique, and I have been to places far more dangerous and more exotic. But this location was unique in that in my long history of study, there have been none that we brought more from. The number of relics and artifacts that were discovered exceeded all expectations. The last number that was reported to me was one hundred thirty-three thousand forty-two. A number that has no doubt continued to rise and bring about the undoing and death of all who were and still are involved. How unfortunate that a once-in-a-lifetime discovery would result in the death of so many.

The first death was two weeks after we had returned from our trip. The victim was another professor by the name of Edgar Washington. He was an elderly man but despite his age, he was healthy and fit. Edgar was found in his home, laying in his bedroom his face frozen in agony. And as I write, his cause of death yet remains unknown. The second death worth mentioning was Sidney Davis, the only female student who we brought along with us. She too was found in her bedroom with a similar agonizing look on her face and once again, her cause of death is unknown. Over the next six months, the remaining members of the expedition would die, all in a similar fashion, leaving just myself remaining.

The most recent death happened twenty-seven days ago. Why I know this is because it was a favorite student of mine, Michael Seymore, and his death may have revealed a clue. Or rather what he wrote. Michael Seymore was found in his bedroom in the same fashion as the others that I have mentioned, but he was clutching a journal to his chest. A journal that has come into my possession by means which are not entirely legal, I admit. And while I wish for my reputation to remain as unsullied as possible after the discovery of this letter, I needed to know what Michael had written. It concerns my own death, you see, and a man should know what fate awaits him. The first third of the journal was what you would expect of a man with a sound mind. However, as I turned the pages the words of Michael Seymore become less and less coherent until there was nothing but the ramblings of a lone mad man. The last third of the journal was nothing more than a single phrase written over and over again: “It comes from the darkness, look to the shadows.” A phrase in which the meaning remains lost to me and the limited amount of time I have remaining means that I shall never discover its true meaning. And an unknown fate still awaits me.

After the death of Michael Seymore, the evil turned its attention to me, the last member of our expedition. I had been aware of the deaths since the death of Edgar Washington. However, I did not notice the similarities until the death of Joseph Linkletter, who was the third to die. Had I discovered the link earlier, I might have been able to alter the course or to keep the deaths from happening. When I knew it was my turn, I immediately noticed it following me, but any and all research led me to dead ends.

The first time I saw it was late at night, three days after the death of Michael Seymore. From the corner of my eye, I saw a shadowy shape standing across the street from my residence. It would remain there every night for the next two weeks. Was it watching me? I believe it was. 

The first night it entered my house was a week ago, and I have not left my room since, with the exception of a daily visit to my kitchen, as the activity is minimal during the day. Maybe it does not like light. I have fired the house staff, in hopes to keep them safe, and I have formally resigned from the university to distance myself from everyone. It is my hope that I will be the last to suffer such a fate, but if I am not the last, I hope that this letter may help the next person who is being stalked by this evil being. I know nothing of this being – if it was released from our expedition, then I do not know-how. It may be tied to one of the relics that we returned with but again I cannot be certain. Along with this letter are our expedition notes, books on ancient civilizations, as well as books on evil, books that make mention of dark figures, and the last piece that I leave is the journal of Michael Seymore. I leave these things behind for the next person.

Soon the sun will perish and my candle will burn out leaving me in darkness. I have failed in this life and if I am responsible for this evil, then know that I am truly sorry for what we have unleashed. I will know my fate soon enough. 

My final words,

Emmitt Newgate    


 

J.S. O’Connor currently lives in Bettendorf Iowa where he writes in his free time.

 

 

 

Free Fiction: Undone by P J Curtis

Undone by P.J. Curtis

I lost something in the woods. It hurts my head every time I try to remember what exactly I lost, but there’s an emptiness that must be filled before it’s too late. I am not getting any younger and these trees are only growing taller. 

I would’ve driven through these woods considering how wide the path was, but at its entrance, I decided to leave my car. I wouldn’t be needing it any longer. I don’t need any protection for what I’m doing today. However, when I exited my car, I looked at the sky and noticed how dark it had gotten despite it being early in the day. The once welcoming pink sky has transformed into a coal-stained canvas, just ready to be presented by its maker. At first, it alarmed me how sudden the change was, but I didn’t think too much about it since I needed to find what I lost. 

As I walked down the dirt path filled with moss-ridden stones and rotten bark, my legs began to tremble. It felt like hours since I started my journey to find what I’ve lost but something in my chest was pulling me forward. I figured it was strong conviction but another, deeper part of me, felt as if something was truly pulling me. 

The path seemed endless and less of the already dying light from the sky was sinking through the trees. In fact, I could hardly see the sky. I couldn’t stop and fully take in what had become of my surroundings but it felt as if the trees were closing in on me. Almost as if they were forming a tunnel, the trees began to bend like fingers trying to touch the palm of a hand. There was barely any light but no matter how dark the tunnel of trees made my venture, I knew I would find what I needed.

I kept trudging along the dark path with a shortness of breath. I desired to keep going but my lungs were burning so hot, I thought they would burst from my chest. Even my legs had given up and my knees finally buckled. I figured I would collapse completely but as I fell, I realized my chest hadn’t hit the path. Almost as if I were begging, only my knees kissed the ground. My upper body was completely erect and my chest began to protrude outwards. The pulling sensation had only grown stronger as I was dragged along the path with no visible force tugging at my chest. 

I was dragged for hours. The knee part of my pants has disintegrated and had been matted with blood and mud. I felt weaker the farther I went down the tunnel. I could barely keep my eyes open but an unusual clutter of small voices prevented me from going completely adrift. The deeper I delved into the dark path, the clearer the voices sounded. I could make out what they were saying and frankly, it was nothing special. All I heard were average conversations layered on yet more average conversations. It was incessant but comforting. 

Eventually, the speed at which I was being dragged had come to a halt as I entered a different part of the woods. The tunnel had opened in a circular fashion above me as if the trees morphed into a colosseum. With this newfound exposure to the sky, the moon shone light on something I had never seen before. 

Before my eyes, I saw an old woman in worn rags sewing herself what appeared to be a red scarf. The old woman looked grotesquely thin and feeble yet she used her needle as if it were a mighty sword when she struck the yarn. It was a beautiful stitch, a work of art to say the least. I began to wonder why she wore such hideous and worn rags but I was interrupted by her gruesome gaze. 

She did not say a single word. The old woman stopped sewing for a moment as she brushed her matted wisps of hair over her shoulder. She then pointed at my chest and that’s when I saw it. A long strand of red yarn had come out of my chest and had been linked to her soon-to-be scarf. My eyes widened as she fiddled with the string with her long nail as if it were a banjo. Before I could process what was happening, her eyes rolled back into her skull and her twisted smile grew as she continued sewing. With every passing stroke of her needle, I began to unravel. Her scarf grew longer as my body began to diminish into nothingness. I couldn’t tell if I made a single noise because the conversations only grew louder as I became more scarf than human. 

The process was extremely painful, as my skin was being ripped off but I have to say…it was worth it. I feel warmed not only by the fabric I’ve become but also by the voices I am surrounded by. I can now intermingle with whomever I’m woven with. 

I finally found what I have lost. 


Author Bio: 

P.J. Curtis is a fan of fiction that disturbs readers to the core. Whether he is reading or writing it, Curtis believes we all should take a moment to appreciate what lurks in the shadows. Being primarily inspired by the works of Junji Ito and Franz Kafka, Curtis delves deep into the brink of human absurdity through the exploration of the unexplainable. Right now, Curtis is studying at Montclair State University to become a high school English teacher, but that has never stopped him from exploring what makes us scream.

 

Free Fiction:Broken Marble Cherry Bowl by Dan A. Cardoza

Broken Marble Cherry Bowl By Dan A. Cardoza

Grande Nonno died making a living, like Papa. He was born with his blue denim sleeves rolled up. 

He and Grande Nonna are buried just a few miles south of the Apuan Mountains on the Alps’ Italian side. They’ve been rotting away in a small village cemetery near the town of Caravaggio. Caravaggio, Italy, is in the province of Bergamo, in Lombardy, Italy, 40 kilometers northeast of Milan’s municipality. 

Carrara is in central Italy. Carrara is in the provinces of Massa and Carrara. The region is famous for the white and blue-grey marble quarried there. The brilliant, almost translucent blue and grey exist as arteries and veins, frozen in memoriam. The Carrione River gushes in the winter through the canyons of the region. Flash floods in the spring have been known to cleanse citizens clear out into the Ligurian Sea. 

At first glance, the Apuan Alps of northwest Tuscany’s Carrara region are pure white. You can imagine snow being born in the high castle crags. 

Early train travelers through the regional mountains had been cautioned of the risk of blindness due to marble dust and glare from all the whiteness. The talc of powder is said to be under the control of no other than the wind, a stiff wind that wants nothing to do with humankind.

Most travel guides, even today, will tell you the Carrara region is famous for three things: marble, anarchy, and pig fat. This unlikely trio is intertwined as deeply as the mineral veins striating the marbled mountains. 

Since ancient Roman times, Carrara’s Apuan Alps have supplied marble for some of the world’s most prized sculptures. Carrara is the marble of Michelangelo’s Pietà, Jean-Antoin Houdin’s George Washington, and New Delhi’s vast Akshardham Temple. The stone is blessed with luminosity, its networks of blue arteries and veins, nature’s psychological Rorschach test ranges from grayish to purple. In monolithic form, it can support the sky, like Half-Dome in Yosemite, California. It has been winnowed down into the translucence of light itself in thin slabs, a fitting lid on an iridescent coffin. 

My name is David. I’m a little softer than marble but much colder. It’s taken a while to get here, but that’s what you get when you grow up in the middle of a nightmare.

This story isn’t so much about me. It’s mostly about us. Yes, dear reader, you and me, us humans, with all our ugliness, beauty, and pain. It’s about the idiosyncrasies and occasional flaws of raising children, children whose only intent is to live, once born. There’s not one baby book available online or in a storefront about how to raise a monster. I can assure you, the parents that know how-to, don’t need any damned instructions.

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy a wonderful life, especially now that I’ve lived alone for just over a decade. Papa and Mamma are back in Northern Italy, going on eleven years now. They will be back, not to worry. In most ways, they’ve never really left. They are like shadows that remain hidden, but for midnight. 

When I say that they are not really being gone, by that, I mean there are very few places in this run-down house where they don’t exist. And, outside, they are out there too. 

Papa is in the drippy faucet, the one he couldn’t fix. And so I put up with it, and wait. It’s just off their bedroom, on the second floor. Now that they’re gone, I sleep in their queen. Papa is in the crazy garden. Jesus, it’s insanely productive. Most of us Italian’s are birthed with green thumbs. He’s no exception. Hell, he’s placed enough bullshit in the dirt to turn the backyard into a greenhouse. The soil can’t help itself. It’s rich and loamy. 

He’s in the tomato stakes, the ones he used his machete to ax into six-foot lengths. The stakes are round and made out of two-inch dried bamboo. He uses four to stand up the cages, cages meant to confine the beautiful green and red of the plants. Papa makes the wire cages too. It seems he makes everything except the water. In July, once the plants have taken hold, he uses the iron enclosures to jail all the tomatoes with cheap labor until they are forced to ripen. 

The rake, he’s damned well in it. Papa’s in the sweaty oil on the tacky handle. He’s also in the missing hickory slivers that have ended up in his callused palms. I can even feel him in the shovel, the square, and the round one. Papa’s strong hands are there, the ones that he’d forced around my throat. 

The rounded shovel has a grave digger’s blade, having killed a rat or two. It acts as guillotines and can be used to take out Napoleon’s armies of screaming tomato worms, as well as any meandering garden snake.  

Father is in the pantry, more stubborn than any simile. I swear to it. He’s in the ugly green wooden cabinet, the cabinet built onto one of the garage walls. He had inherited from the previous homeowners. Papa was there when he smashed the planked wooden door on my curious fingers after he’d carelessly left it unlocked. He was as quiet as a panther in the single-car parking space. 

He’d reinforced the shelves, “extra support never hurt nuthin’, he’d said. If I catch you climbing up them again, I’ll crack your eardrums open like a walnut shell.” 

Brandied cherries, thorny blackberries, and drunken raisins, a container of bay leaves, dried leaves broad enough to cover your crotch, they’re all in there, his damned pantry, canned jars of minestrones soups, pickled venison with bone broth, broth he’d used to boil meat off a cats ribs. 

I love Papa. I can’t get enough of him, even though he’d never taught me a damned thing or showed an ounce of affection. He’d beaten me so hard once. He used a messy summer fly-swatter. The kids at school teased me for more than a week. They’d called me porch-face because of the clumsy screen door in the back of the house. I wouldn’t dare tell them the truth. Don’t get me wrong, I truly love him, Papa, way over in Italy, but if not for the distance, I’d kill him.

Trouble in Italy

It’s like when ivory Domino’s fall, Italy. 

One after the other, first cousin Adrianna broke her back. She’d been living taking care of Nonno and Nonna in their two bedroom inherited cottage. Winter had been a bastarda that year. Those cloudy Cumuli scoundrels just wouldn’t let up or leave. 

The storms had come over the ice-box Apuan Mountains like some uninvited frost-bitten diesel train. They huffed and puffed their swollen blue faces, clean out of Switzerland and Austria. The back stoop and steps had frozen. 

In the last atmospheric disturbance, Adrianna had forgotten all their scratchy linens she’d hung out on the clothesline in the AM. When she’d clipped on the wooden clothespins, there had been sunshine, clawing itself over the horizon. The landscape was frozen, but the fragile sunrays had been as dry as a church mouse fart.

She’d seen them as flags, all the sheets, and towels. They’d flapped parallel in the same direction of the sleet. If the sky hadn’t been so windy, they might have frozen all their stiffness in place. 

Both feet had come out from underneath her hefty girth. She attempted to scoot across the stoop and down a short run of stairs. Adrianna’s heard the crunch before, the time she’d chopped fresh kindling for the cottage’s cast iron stove. She’d cracked her cervical spine in three places.

The medicohe had ordered rest and that she lay as stiff as a corpse for at least two months. I don’t know what in the hell they call them in Italy, but the doctor had also thrown a shitload of Benzodiazepines at her to “uplift her mood,” he’d said. 

Adrianna had sounded as if she was a happy zombie. She’d begun to slur her words. So, she used the neighbor on the other end of the phone. This neighbor lady, Arelia, was one of a few in the village who knew broken English. Adrianna had stirred up the whole neighborhood with her high maintenance and melodramatics, most likely from her being high. 

In short order, Arelia, the helpful neighbor, quit. She’d had enough of nursing Arianna, as well as cooking and feeding Nonno and Nonna. She’d shouted in Italian when she’d left the cottage for the last time, “I’m not going to be used as some kind of crazy finger puppet.” That’s when mother and father’s trip was a done deal.

Hearing all this, mother and father had jumped on the first international flight out of San Francisco to Milan. Apparently, Caravaggio, Italy is another Hotel California, like the Eagles’ hit song, once you arrive, you can never leave. 

By god, nothing was going to happen to Nonno and Nonna. My parents had too much invested, not the least the thirty-odd dollars they’d sent to Italy every month.  

I’m sure their leaving had nothing to do with any future inheritance. 

Back at the House

Although Mamma is in Italy, she’s never really left the house. 

She’s in the pasta sauce she taught me to make: Butt loads of fresh garlic, a pinch of brown sugar, a teaspoon of vinegar, fresh basil, Papa’s rusty tomatoes, and her secret weapon, Italian ground sausage with fennel. There are enough jars of Mamma’s pasta sauce in the green pantry to fill up a Venetian Gondola. I almost forgot, add about ½ cup of tawny port wine, not the cooking kind. In Northern Italy, that’s how we roll.

She’d used her intoxicating pasta sauce and pasta to keep papa fat and uncomfortable, too uncomfortable for kinky sex. 

Mamma had been the Comet shine in the scratched porcelain sink. I’m messy. She cleaned the kitchen floor good enough to eat off, vacuumed the rug in front of the big screen TV, left wheel marks resembling perfectly furrowed OCD rows of corn, truer than any in Kansas. I have stacks of dirty dishes on the coffee table. The washer broke, and now I’m using the dishwasher to clean all my clothes.  

I almost forgot, Mamma is down the drain in the bathtub and out the sewer pipes, swimming toward the mainline. Everything she ever did is out there. I hope the witch stays in Italy, never comes home.

Mamma’s into saving. She’s a penny-pincher. 

She’d hoarded change, mainly the spare dimes she could fit into Papa’s discarded whiskey and cognac, Toro Gordo see-through tubes. The nasty cigars never left his mouth. Each tube was gifted at storing their designated dimes, each dime held snugly in its place. Dimes were tight, seemingly pinching themselves into place, each dime a fool, should they even think of leaving the nested affection.  

I’ve spent every one of those Mercury-headed sons-a-bitches, those President Franklin D. Roosevelt, In God We Trust counterfeit dimes. Money is evil. It needed to be punished. I gave them all away at the Thunder Valley Casino, just north of Sacramento. It had taken a lot of liquor, anger, and time to spend the forty-eight tubes of stolen dimes. Losing had never felt so good. Returning at 3:00 AM Saturday morning, I’d slept most of the weekend away, having gorged on an all-you-can-eat buffet.

Canning

With COVID and all, and since Mamma’s cooking is in Italy, I’ve taken up canning. 

Canning has become extremely popular with my generation. I am a millennial. It’s a safe, effective, and simple process, and it’s crazy inexpensive. Mother made me inexpensive, cheap enough to toss away if she could have gotten away with it. She gave me to Papa, expecting he’d use me up. I hate her as much as sin, with her all her paternal conspiracies. 

People can take advantage of canning to preserve just about anything: fruits, peaches, plums, thorny and bloody blackberries picked in the boiling sun, along the Yuba River, vegetables, soups, sauces, and meats, damned right, all kinds of proteins.

In the late 1700s, that crazy war genius, Napoleon Bonaparte, commissioned a regional search for a better method to preserve food. He believed that “An army travels on its stomach.” 

He was looking for a less expensive and more efficient way to feed his armies. He intended to make food last longer and give his armies nutritional food, meat to build up their strength. Their heritage of strength is what allowed the troops to perform more of their carnage in all the battles. And so Napoleon proposed a hefty bounty to anyone who could come up with a better method of preserving food in quantity, with a long shelf life, even though most of Napoleon’s soldiers had a limited expiration date. 

A genius named Nicholas Appert had claimed the prize, though it took until 1810 for him to perfect his discovery. But like most time-proven inventions used for the military, it would take about fifty years before the methodology and know-how would trickle down to the average family. Think of Ronald Reagan’s Star Wars. 

By 1858, this brilliant, cylindrically shaped man, John Mason, had invented the iconic, reusable “Mason Jar.” The Mason jar is the gold standard of canning, even today.

The best thing momma taught me before she left was how to can. I do thank her for that if nothing else, and I will be grateful to her for the rest of my life.

The Supplies:

  1. Boiling water bath canner or a large, deep sauce pot with a lid and a rack
  2. Glass preserving jars, lids, and bands (always start with new lids)
  3. Common kitchen utensils, such as a wooden spoon, ladle, and paring knife
  4. Quality ingredients (fresh fruits and vegetables)
  5. Jar lifter
  6. Home canning funnel
  7. Bubble freer and headspace tool

I admit it’s become an obsession, canning. It’s been more than a hot minute, well, over ten years now, since Papa and Mamma left for Italy. I might have to whisper, but I think I’m a better canner than my missing Mamma. You heard me right. Mamma went missing while in Italy. She’s still missing. 

If I sound a little matter of fact, well, for Christ-sakes, I am. I don’t miss her a bit. Hell, she’s everywhere I turn in this two-story falling apart clapboard house.

Let’s get back to canning. I don’t have time for terribly long stories. 

Bitches, I am the RuPaul Andre Charles of canning. I’ve got canning game. Over the years, I have mastered the art. Yes, you heard me correct. It’s an art: Squatty Stainless steel jar lids, lids that stack in gorgeous, shiny rows in Papa’s garage pantry. Tall, long Masson jars, the glass of stars, full of peaches, their skin’s sloughing off. Don’t you just love the word slough? I eat the juicy peaches, skin first. I’ve preserved Kidney beans and canned eggplant, the kind that resembles the Emoji penis. I’ve canned olives, as dark as jackal eyes, red pimento’s for pupils. Green-fingered asparagus, some as thick as longshoremen’s thumbs, the rest, as long as your middle finger, I’ve stored them all. 

I figure all the canned goods in Papa’s green cupboard should last at least five freaking years. Think about it, not having to shop for food, all the plague masks, all the germs, the disguising people?  

I Quit my Job

I worked for the State of California in IT. My employer was the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. It was a nice fit for the longest time, the past twenty years. But, with all the write-ups, suspensions, and disciplinary action, I told the governor of the golden state of California to shove his state job up his Department of Controller’s ass. I’d had it. 

The talking behind my back and taunting had gone on for months. I was accused of sexual harassment, gender insensitivity, and for keeping less than standard hygienic practices. 

It was never written up formally, by my immediate supervisor had also accused me of excessive flatulence. He’d said, “I’ll save you all the embarrassment by not having it on the record.” 

They assumed father had simply disappeared in the woods. He’d been hiking a lot after Mamma’s disappearance. Well, he’d disappeared too. It was in early February. Ah, em, it had been snowing a lot. The Apaun forests were deep and dark, all that bullshit. 

Think of me as the red stapler man in the hit movie Office Space. I’d been placed in a corner, next to a dingy wall, at the end of a long row of cubicles. I’d been made fun of for the longest time. There had been food on my shirt that I’d made sure to wash at least once a month, the broken clip on my suspenders, my olive oiled hair, a litany of complaints. 

They’d said, “He’s a pig, eats most of his food out of jars, he farts like a bull in a software China shop. He scrambles and breaks every damned software application and Microsoft Excel spreadsheet account that he touches. His math is sloppy. He doesn’t add up.”

“Fuck you,” I shouted when Kevin won the yearly IT award. I wouldn’t have been so bad, but I used the third floors intercom. 

This girl named Nancy had turned me in for wearing real pig’s ears for Halloween. I thought It was appropriate. I used elastic and Velcro and had dried them out. “Fuck you,” I’d shouted when they’d told me who it was that complained. “Fuck all of you, Nancy,” I’d said. “You bitches are going to end up in a Masson’s canning jar.” I was fired the very next day. They walked me clear down the block to the bus stop. 

Ok, I get this feeling that you are making fun of me too. This is so personal, and I have been sharing so much of myself. I know you think I’m crazy, reader. You can’t fool me. Don’t flatter yourself, smarty-pants. You think I killed my mother and father and jarred them. No, and No, and hell no!

I’m in Papa’s garage. He won’t mind. I’m using his workbench vice. Grande Nonno had a workbench, too, over there in Italy. He’d used it to sharpen all his slaughtering tools and wheat scythe. Grande Nonno and I had always gotten along. I loved him. He’s the one that taught me why the sheep in the foothills of the Alps have two downhill legs shorter than the other, walking the hills and all, in one direction. 

Papa did everything big, including installing a commercial-sized workbench vice. His vice is industrial red and shiny as glass. I tighten it, tighter and tighter. Nothing ever escaped father. He held me down, two knees on my back, both hands in my long pissy hair, I’d wet the bed again. 

As I grew older, he’d do this, but for other reasons. 

I turn the handle. I have the vices dog fixed in place. I watch as the moving jaw moves in the direction of the stationary jaw. The main screws seem to elongate as the vice grips tighter, one of life’s paradoxes. I crank and crank until Papa’s double-barreled shotgun is fixed in place.

I saw and saw, using the hacksaw. 

As the storm shakes the rafters, I play Papa’s favorite CD using his cheap flea-market vintage player. How he loved him some Brahm, especially the classic-haunted lullabies, steeped in all the Mephistophelian memories they evoked. He loved the anxious melody, all the nervous piano keys, the white noise that kept my–his demons at bay. 

Piano Concerto Number Two was his favorite, with its assemblage of Stradivarius violins fluttering their hyaline wings off. How it reminds me of the times, I’d torn the wings off the butterfly’s whenever the pain ferreted itself into the light, sniffing for vengeance.

Most of the cold steel barrel falls to the floor. I sand and sand what’s left of the barrel until it’s smooth to the touch. It never heats up. It remains cold. 

I snap on the TV in the family room. It takes a while to find the channel with only white noise. Next to me, on the make-shift end table is a mason jar. It’s filled to the brim with pickled pig’s feet broth, mostly bitter vinegar. I grasp the jar in my sweaty palm. I swish the dog’s eyes in a clockwise direction. I place the vacuum-packed jar back on the card table next to the couch. 

The age-darkened sheep’s eyes spin and whirl in a circular motion of sight, no longer tethered to their brains by any pesky optic nerves or even semblance of reality. 

I pick up the jar again. I stare back and spin the wolf’s eyes in a counter-clockwise direction. I smile. I place the cyclone of deception and conspiracy back on the table.

Now I can use my index finger on the trigger. The shotgun barrel is so much shorter now. Using my toes was unrealistic since I’ve gained so much weight after being terminated. Terminated, what a harsh word, isn’t it? Because of all the nutritious canned protein, I’ve become a little cherub. There’s no way my chubby two toes were going to blast me over the moon. 

Dear reader, if you’ve gotten this far, I’m truly sorry. You will have to sit on the couch now, directly across from me, and watch.

You’ll have company. They are watching me too. The feral eyes are strobe lights, a horrific merry-go-round of sight, the son’s-a-bitch, around and around they go. The room fades to black, the TV splatters.

You know most of the rooms in the house by now. After you puke your guts out, you run toward the leaky shower in the master bath. The blistering hot water can’t rub your bloody skin off fast enough, “Fuck the crime scene,” you shout at the top of your lungs, into the ceiling. You contemplate how your pretty world has just shit its pants.

You exit the shower. The room has turned into a psyche ward spa. Everything is a vapor. You splash ice water on your face over the sink in front of the massive mirror. You rub and rub at the steam on the glass.  

Directly behind you, in the mirror, is your new reality. You can see it clearly now. It stands bleeding, broad-shouldered. Somehow the brawny shoulders are holding up a broken marble bowl of cherries. The bloody cherries are globing over the rim of the bowl. 

After you’ve determined the broken bowl is what’s left of my skull, I make you feel the icy barrel against your flesh, directly behind your pounding heart. 

Now, Son’s-a-bitch, the lights really do go out. 

The End


Dan’s most recent fiction has been published in the 45th Parallel, Allegory, honorable mention, Aphelion, BlazeVOX, Across the Margins, Bull, Cleaver, Close to the Bone, Coffin Bell, Dark City Books/Magazine, Door=Jar, Dream Noir, Entropy, Flash Bang Mystery, Gravel, Literary Heist, Mystery Tribune, O:JA&L/Open: Journal of Arts & Letters, New Flash Fiction Review, Overstock, Spelk, Variant, Visitant, Your Impossible Voice, The 5-2. Dan has also been nominated by Coffin Bell for the Best of the Net Anthology, 2021, and best micro-fiction by Tiny Molecules.

You can read more of Dan’s work at https://www.dan-a-cardoza-literature.com,

Twitter: @Cardozabig 

https://www.facebook.com/ 

 

Gypsy Mob : Episode One / The Pleasure Tent

The Ferris wheel whirled as the midway lights flickered, lit by the secondary generator also powering the staticky sound system piping carnival music through the meager lane of tents pitched along a lane that may have constituted a midway. A few dogs begged at the hands of the well-dressed patrons lined up at the booths, but for the most part, the only scavengers were the Gypsy carnies. 

“Step righ’ up, hit the tits off da bull wid a dart, and win a stuffed monkey!”

“Ladies and gents, if’n youse can fill this balloon wid a water gun, you get a ticket for our private show featuring the stunning Ms. Gingerette!”

“Guess da number o’ clams inside th’ bucket o’ sand and you wins a million dolla! Okay, not a million, but ONE HUND’RD DOLLARS! Ladies and gents, how ‘bout dat! For th’ price of a pounda clams…”

Bianca’s eyes shined as the Ferris wheel’s cars swooped past her, the lights of the cars reflected in her eyes. “Matty, this is so much fun! I haven’t been to a carnival in… ever!”

“Don’t get carried away, Bi,” Matteo said, his hand tightening on hers involuntarily as a carny whirled by in a fiery cartwheel, somehow juggling the Earth and two flaming torches. “This isn’t a carnival, just a campground of Gypsies with a few rusty rides.” As he spoke, the Ferris wheel whirled behind him, neglected joints letting out a squeak with every car. 

“Spoilsport,” Bianca shot back, dropping his hand and flouncing ahead. Matteo cursed and followed her, shouldering his way through the people crowding the midway. He was amazed at the number of people in the Gypsy encampment. Didn’t these people realize that Gypsies were scum and would only bring them heartache? Grinding his teeth, he followed Bianca’s short-skirted ass as it weaved through the crowd. 

“Ooh, fortunes!” Bianca squealed, coming to a halt at a black-bordered booth studded with blue stars. A banner proclaimed “Your fortune for only $5.00.” Beneath it, a scrawny dark-skinned man with greasy hair and a scraggly mustache grinned, holding out his hand. Matteo groaned, coming to a stop behind her and catching her arm, bringing her to a stop. 

“Bi, maybe we should go find somewhere else to spend our money,” Matteo said, neglecting to mention that the last time she laid down any money for their extracurricular activities was the last time they had bought coke(months ago) and hoping that she would move on rather than costing him another ten dollars for unmitigated Gypsy bullshit. 

“Maybe you want to go on and spend your own money,” Bianca said, her voice clearly inviting him to go fuck himself. 

Matteo sighed, glancing around them for a diversion. His eyes fell upon a tent much larger than the others, a banner over its entrance reading “Pleasure Tent.”  His eyes widened as, with a yank, Bianca pulled her arm free from his gripping hand. With a vindictive look at Matteo, Bianca dropped a five-dollar bill and a single into the bowl before the booth. 

“Look, Bi, if you want your fortune so bad, go and get it,” Matteo said, thrusting his hands into his pockets. “I’ll wait here.”

Bianca rolled her eyes before turning her million-dollar smile towards the carny. The greasy man smiled, vanishing her bills as though he had a conduit to another world. Turning to the side, he barked a word. Behind him, a wall of curtains they had not noticed parted and an old woman appeared, shrouded in ragged robes. Frizzy white hair surrounded her face as she beckoned Bianca forward. With a last vicious look at Matteo, Bianca disappeared behind the curtain. 

Matteo watched Bianca disappear into the fortune tent and rolled his eyes. It would be a long drive back to the Don’s mansion with her in that mood. With a sigh, he set his sights on the Pleasure Tent, the entrance attended by a Gypsy girl behind a wooden booth. She wore a long swishy skirt with the barest of tops covering her ample breasts. The fabric was translucent, making it abundantly clear that she wore nothing beneath it. Matteo felt himself stiffening as he walked towards her. The girl noticed him and smiled slyly as he approached. 

“Bitta pleasure?” she asked as he halted in front of her. 

“How much?” Matteo asked, glancing around and seeing no one to notice him patronizing the tent. 

“$100, you choose girl.”

Matteo put on his boyish charming face. “How about you?”

The girl laughed, the barest hint of disdain in it. “I not work inside. $100 and you make choice here.”

Fumbling, Matteo pulled his wallet from his pocket and extracted a bill. The girl made it disappear with the alacrity of the fortune teller before pulling a battered three-ring binder from beneath the booth. Opening it to the first page, she tapped the glossy color photograph of a pretty brunette. “She new. Just start tonight.”

“Do you have any blondes?” Matteo asked, glancing around again. 

“Accourse,” the girl said, selecting a bookmark and opening the binder to the section marked BLONDE. “Nonna them are…fresh as new girl.”

Matteo paged through the section, evaluating each prospect until one caught his eye. She had long blonde hair, down past her shoulders, full pouting lips and a haughty expression that made his groin twinge. He pointed. “How is she?”

“Well, I donno mysel’,” the girl said with a laugh. “But no complains. She very popular.”

Popular. Matteo knew what that meant. “Which is the newest blonde you have?” 

Leafing back several pages, the Gypsy pointed one out. “This one our newest blonde.”

Matteo gazed at the girl. Her face was lovely enough but the expression on it was vacant, the eyes a thousand miles away. “Is she… popular?” 

“Not as much, but you no sorry,” she said with a wink. 

Matteo moistened his lips. “I’ll take her,” he said, his voice husky. 

“You no sorry,” repeated the girl, coming around the booth and taking his arm. “Follow.” 

Matteo felt one full breast pressing against his arm and felt another twinge in his groin. “Are you sure you couldn’t work inside, just this once?”

The girl laughed as they entered the tent. “Sorry. But you be very pleased with Dora.”

As Matteo’s eyes adjusted to the gloom in the tent, he could see it was separated into sections by thick curtains. He could hear various liquid sounds, male groans and the slap of flesh on flesh. The scent of rut filled the air, swelling his member further. 

Leading Matteo down an aisle, the Gypsy girl stopped at one of the sections. Releasing his arm, she pulled the curtain back and gestured for him to enter. Peering past the curtain, Matteo saw the blonde girl reclining on a bed, nude, her eyes on him. With no expression, she gestured him forward. Glancing at the Gypsy girl, Matteo stepped forward, feeling the curtain fall into place behind him. 

Throughout their session, the girl’s blank face did not change, even when she took him in her mouth. Matteo was disconcerted but found that by taking her from behind, it rendered her expression immaterial. As he came, she let out a sigh, her only vocalization. 

Pulling out of her, Matteo spotted a roll of paper towels on a table beside the bed. Wiping himself, he buckled his pants, noting with unease that the girl had not moved, laying on her stomach with only her breath to show she still lived. 

“Well…thanks…” Matteo said, unsure of what to do or say. None of the other working women he had patronized had been so…lifeless. She continued saying nothing, so with a shrug, he pushed back the curtain and left the tent. 

The Gypsy girl was showing the book to another prospective client, her untethered breasts jiggling as she laughed at something the man had said. Her eyes met his, and she grinned. “Please come again, we have new girls very soon!”

“Right,” Matteo said uneasily. He escaped into the crowd, feeling dirty. Sniffing himself, he did not detect any smells that would arouse Bianca’s suspicions. 

Making his way back to the fortune tent, he was surprised not to see Bianca there. Walking up to the scrawny Gypsy at the entrance, he asked, “Is my girlfriend still in there?”

“No, sirrah. She gone.”

“Without me?” Matteo swore, not really surprised. 

“She very beautiful,” the man said, and grinned. “You lucky man.”

“Thanks,” Matteo mumbled, pulling his phone from his pocket as he walked away. Dialing Bianca’s number, a crease appeared on his forehead as it went directly to voice mail. Bianca NEVER had her phone off. 

“Hey Bi, where are you? Call me.”

Inside the fortune tent, the old woman ushered Bianca to a seat on one side of a crystal ball. Swirling her rags around her, she seated herself at the single stool opposite Bianca and steepled her fingers before her face. 

“Fortune a mysterious thing,” she said, her voice dry and thin. “It come with fame, herald it, be preserved within cookie, but nobody know where it comes from.” She tapped the crystal ball twice and its clear surface filled with gray clouds. “We may read it…here.”

Bianca leaned forward, entranced. 

With a wave of her hand, the woman plunged the room into darkness and leaned forward over the crystal ball, from which emanated a soft white glow. The shadows it cast over the woman’s face made her skull stand out, sinking her eyes into her head. For a moment, it looked as though across from her sat a grinning, skeletal ghost. Bianca let out a little squeak. The woman did not notice, leaning over the crystal ball as though she were reading a fascinating novel. 

“Ahhh young lady, you will go on to marry good, prosperous man. Your life will be everything you wished it could be…”

She trailed off. Bianca leaned forward, riveted. “Yes? What else?”

“I see you very beautiful,” the woman nearly shouted, and Bianca recoiled. “Yes, you be fine mother for your children and good wife to your husband.”

“Children?” Bianca said, her voice unnerved. “But I don’t want–”

“Ball has spoken!” the woman barked. “But I see you are very beautiful.” She nearly shouted this last phrase and turned her rotten smile upon Bianca. “Fates never lie.”

Bianca stood, her slightly shaky legs betraying her outward calm. “I will never breed,” she said, her voice haughty. “You have misread me, foolish woman.”

“Ah, p’rhaps,” the Gypsy said and leered. “If you wish, you go now.”

Without a word, Bianca turned toward the door to the tent through which she had entered. 

“Ah, miss, this way,” said the woman, gesturing to an arch in the cloth behind her Bianca had not noticed. “We must keep d’traffic flowing, yes?” She cackled. 

  Without saying anything more, Bianca pushed past the table and out the archway. She stood for a moment in the fresh air, savoring her relief from the heavily perfumed atmosphere of the fortune-teller’s tent. 

As she stood there, breathing, an enormous Gypsy man approached her. He grinned, showing teeth as rotten and black as the fortune-teller’s. 

“Miss, you very beautiful? Is what Madam told you?”

“Yes, and I don’t think it was worth what I paid her. I know I’m beautiful, I don’t need her to–”

Without warning, Bianca was hit from behind by a massive weight, sending her crashing to the dirt as a spray of red formed before her eyes. “Oh no, that’s blood,” she thought, as the ground rushed up to meet her and the world turned black. 

“You right,” said the huge Gypsy man. “She very beautiful.”

“She be perfect,” Madam Zara said, dropping the rock back inside the tent. “Now get her out of here.”

 

New HorrorAddicts.net Podcast Season 16 to Begin


Interview with Creator and Horror Hostess of HorrorAddicts.net, Emerian Rich. 

Interviewed by Kate Nox, Blog Editor

Nox: Emz, the new podcast season is about to begin. On April 24th we can all tune in and hear the show. I imagine this is an exciting time for you?

Emz: Exciting and busy. The staff and I are all working hard to collect information and create new content for the listeners.

Nox: And how many seasons have you been doing this?

Emz: This will be our 16th season.

Nox: Share with us the theme for this season and some of the reasons it was chosen

Emz: We wanted to really highlight POC voices this year, so we made a call to share with us horror in cultures from around the world. We’ve got some really great authors involved and we’ll be covering horror from all different countries. We made it a goal to populate our bookings with 50-75% POC voices and we ended up surpassing that with over 79%.

Nox: Can you let us in on any of the exciting items the season holds for our listeners?

Emz: We have three anthologies to highlight. SLAY from Mocha Memoirs Press, Haunts and Hellions coming out in May from HorrorAddicts.net Press, and ON TIME from Transmundane Press. We’ll have readings from the authors of those books. We’ll also be hosting a Wicked Women Writer’s All-Star competition for our 200th episode, so the listeners will get to hear from the winners of our contests over the years.

Nox: I’ve heard rumors you have new theme music this year?

Emz: Yes! Our favorite band, Valentine Wolfe, has returned to theme our show with their song, “I Felt a Funeral”

Nox: What will the audio drama be this year?

Emz: The Deadbringer, an audio dramatization of E.M. Markoff’s novel. It’s sure to be exciting!

Nox: Remind our listeners when they’ll be able to tune in for the first episode.

Emz: The first episode premieres April 24th and we’ll start with the black vampire theme. Authors from Mocha Memoirs’ SLAY will be reading their work for us. A full list of themes and guests can be found at: HorrorAddicts.net and you can also listen on all the podcasty things including iTunes, I❤Radio, Stitcher, and more. I can’t wait to talk to my addicts again!

Free Fiction Friday: Thirsty by Alan Moskowitz

THIRSTY

Written By Alan Moskowitz

           Alyssa loaded the revolver with one bullet.  She spun the cylinder, covering it with her hand making sure that neither she nor David could see in which of the six chambers the fatal bullet waited.  She put the gun down between them, the cylinder facing away from them.  She picked up the coin, held it out.  “Heads or tails?”

David’s mouth went dry, “Come on Alyssa, we don’t have to do this.  We can just keep sharing, the way we have been.”

           Alyssa shook her head.  “Rescue’s at least two weeks away, we both can’t last that long.  At least this way one of us will survive.  “Call it.”  She flipped the coin, David watched it spin up and then drop to the metal table with a clink.  She put her hand over it, “call it, honey.”  David remained silent.

Alyssa studied his once handsome face, remembering, the monumental exploration they’d launched themselves on, their falling in love, sharing everything equally. And now they’re stranded on this godforsaken waterless planet, and forced into a horrible decision.  “It’s only fair.” 

David swallowed hard, “Heads.”  Alyssa lifted her hand revealing “tails, you first.”

She slid the pistol over to David.  He took it in his hand, studied it for a moment.  “We’ll each drink less, a lot less, share fifty-fifty.” Alyssa sighed with resolution, “Then we’re both dead.”  A tear formed in David’s eye.  Alyssa watched it trickle down his emaciated cheek followed by a second drop.  He put the gun to his head.  His finger gripped the trigger, his hand shaking.  He looked into Alyssa’s calm and resolute eyes, and lowered the gun.  “I can’t.”

Alyssa understood. “I can.”  She took the gun from his shaking hand, checked the cylinder, turned it a few notches until the fatal bullet was next up.  She raised the gun to her head. 

“I love you!” David cried.

“I love you too,” Alyssa answered, and then shot David in the head.  She leaned over and wiped the telltale tear streaks from his face.  “There wasn’t enough for both of us David because you didn’t play fair.”  She sat back and studied his corpse, oddly feeling very little about killing her one time lover.  She considered putting on her suit and dragging him out into the red dust but didn’t have the strength.   She clutched the last bottle of water, opened it, took a small cautious sip and sat back to await the rescue craft.

__________________________________________________________________________________-

 

 

Alan Moskowitz is a retired screenwriter staying sane in Colorado during the pandemic writing genre fiction.  He can be reached at mosko13@aol.com.

 

 

Kbatz Kraft: Halloween Canvas Art

I’m not a painter, but spotting assorted size canvases at the Dollar Store inspired me to get my spooky art on with a little multi-dimensional Halloween décor! Often shadow boxes or keepsake frames are designed inward with elaborate motifs and objects that you can’t see unless you’re up close. These, however, are certainly noticeable, oh yes.

A $2 Goodwill Halloween craft paper block became the canvas backdrops – assorted patterns with damask skulls, spider webs, orange harlequins, and purple owls fittingly named “Dark Shadows.” Clearance Halloween paper placements also backing the 3D Skeleton Frames provided bats and candy corn designs for the larger canvases, and rummaging through my craft stash provided plastic lizards and scorpions, mini pumpkins, bone parts, weird looking potpourri pieces, and small holiday signs tossed into the potential pile as three dimensional art. Laying out my canvases, creepy papers, and morose objects helped match the right designs, bugs, and canvas sizes – eliminating patterns and items that clashed or didn’t fit while creating stand alones or series themes. Using papers and canvases both horizontally or vertically added variety, and now it was finally time to wrap each canvas like a present, folding the corners around the edges and hot gluing the the paper directly on the plain backs. The medium size canvases were a little larger than the square craft paper, so two pieces were seamed together – tape tested to carefully match the paper’s pattern before gluing down the line.

The small signs were only painted on their fronts, so they received some matching black or orange paint around the sides before being centered and glued on the large canvas fronts. The hangers on the back of these signs were removed, too – reused on the backs of the medium canvases now likewise redressed in proper batty fashion. When folding my wrapping too tight, the paper ripped on one, but Kbatz can roll with the punches and glue on more bat bling to fix anything! Not all the canvases nor patterns were perfectly square, however, and some uneven corners or abstract crooked have to be gotten over quickly. The square paper just came to the end of the smallest canvases, so their edges were painted black and the inside rim of the papers were lined with black marker to match the black and white backgrounds. Two red coats gave the bugs a unifying pop, and that foam mini pumpkin was cut in half and touched up around the edges before they were all mounted. Although the larger canvases can be hung themselves, the smaller ones are flat pieces probably meant for a tabletop easel display. A fitting orange yarn could anchor this small trio in a rustic, ladder style banner; but after taping the yarn on the backs, adjusting the placements, gluing the yarn in place, and securing it all with more masking tape, this attempt at hanging art looked totally terrible!

Between the weight of the canvases and the forward leaning objects, the series was no longer uniform as one leaned one way or titled the other. Recovering these canvases in fun prints and using zinger toppers is a family friendly project, but this looked like bad child art that mom has to stick on the refrigerator nonetheless. After getting some aggression out tearing off the yarn, necessity took over in the form of cardboard plucked right out of the recycling. I hadn’t yet used the last place mat pattern, a fun geometric Halloween design, and now it wrapped the cardboard as a new backer to a row of canvases. Though cute, it felt plain. Looking about my craft studio again for more trash to make treasure, I found the black frames removed from the new pictures for my Lenticular Gallery. They weren’t quite the right size for this wide series, so I cut the frames and re-squared them around the new artwork, again taping and gluing the surround in place. You can see the seams of this frame if you look closely enough, and I’m not sure if I totally like it. More creepy crawlies or traditional Halloween webs and creepy cloth drapes would hide these flaws, but all that seemed too busy. Fortunately, this canvas turned cardboard art does hang nicely with its orange yarn swag.

This Halloween Canvas Art was a lot of fun thanks to the craft inspirations and found affordability. For $7 I have five new Halloween displays – even if they didn’t all go as I expected. It also seems like a lot of materials and steps went into these, but having the craft basics to do this makes it wonderfully easy for a fall family night or an at home classroom project. Have a newspaper, special gift wrap, or small memento mori you want to save? Sentimental items or morose shockers make you an artist here!

Revisit more Kbatz Krafts including:

Gothic Gallery How-To

Goth Parasol Upgrade

DIY Flower Pens

How Not to Make a Spooky Spell Book

For more Project Photos, Follow Kbatz Krafts on Facebook! 

Kbatz Krafts: Love is Love Skeleton Wreath

I was going to wait and do this project as a morose February Valentine, but after my His and Hers Three Dimensional Skeleton Frames, I was too excited about this Love is Love Skeleton Wreath!

Despite dollar store skeletons in hand, part of the delay here was originally seeking an oval frame – two skeletons, a few roses, an ornate black surround, goth splendor, fin. However, new thrift frames went to the latest additions in the Lenticular Gallery, and the large wreath frame dismissed from the Mini Skeleton Wreath now took center stage. The floral stash provided red flowers, purple pop, and black leaves, but when I came upon my feathers drawer, I knew this was destined for rainbow flair! The black elements were ditched in favor of green leaves and green feathers stolen from a St. Patrick’s Day boa to go with the abundant orange, yellow, blue, and light purple feathers. Wrapping the frame in red tulle also found in the craft stash provided a solid base for hot gluing the red flowers and green leaves around the top half of the frame. Next came the skeleton couple, who were surprisingly cumbersome folks! The legs were removed, but an arm on either one was also displaced so their rib cages and skulls could be glued together. Without so much surface area on their little bones, it took a lot of hot glue pressed and held in place until the skeletons set. Rather than distinct hair or hat, this hugging, universal, eternal couple was glued as is to the bottom of the wreath with their arms bent and glued in place for more love and support.

The rainbow spread was arraigned and laid out before the purple flowers were glued along the bottom to finish the frame coverage and hide the skeletal ends. Working from their center across helped keep the assorted blooms semi-symmetrical before the orange, yellow, blue, green, and light purple feathers filled in the gaps. The red flowers already stood out with goth glam, leaving no need for red feathers, but the two different purplish shades became the requisite indigo and violet. Being one who prefers black or dark aesthetics, I didn’t have more colorful rainbow motifs, but that’s okay. Using what was in the craft stash required more outside the box thinking, and by eliminating black accents that would scream Halloween, this colorful goth décor can be hung up for fall, February, or Pride. At $3 for the frame and skeletons and maybe $7 worth counting flowers and feathers cost, this done in a day whimsical wreath is affordable, unique, sentimental, and fabulous!

Revisit more Kbatz Krafts including:

Re-Purposed Black Topiaries

Drab to Glam Lampshades

DIY Flower Pens

Upgrading Masquerade Masks

For more Project Photos, Follow Kbatz Krafts on Facebook! 

Kbatz Kraft: Halloween T-Shirt Pillows and Masks

Who doesn’t love a Halloween T-shirt? But what’s one to do once your frightful favorite gets too small, stained, stretched out, or ruined? Never fear Kbatz is here to help you turn discarded October shirts into fresh Fall pillows!

1) Be brave and snip snip! Once you’ve selected your T-shirt retirees, cut off the sleeves and necklines, leaving the front and back of the shirt as your new pillow fabric. If there are out of the way soiled spots or extra bottom length, consider cutting those, too. We want to save the fun Halloween designs, so the prints we’re preserving dictate the size or shapes of the pillows. Many will be straightforward squares, but others with wide across designs can be smaller, lumbar sized pillows or a left logo becomes a memorable mini. Go with what your facade allows. Do remember though, that the pillow fabric may seem big when ironed flat, but consider how much room there will be once it is a stuffed three dimensional object. Give yourself a few inches of room or seam allowance to keep your Halloween swag centered. You don’t want any fun phrasing running off the side!

2) Turn your fabric inside out and get sewing! Your two “good sides” should face each other, pinned or basted in place with a quick stitch. Go around your material perimeter and sew three sides closed. The biggest mistake you can make here is getting carried away and sewing the whole pillow closed, but that’s totally fixable! If you are going to use a pre-made pillow form to stuff your new Halloween cover, leave the bottom completely open. If you are using other stuffing means, then you can sew the bottom partway if you desire – just leave enough for your arm to do the fillings. Matching thread works best on your final stitching, but if you need help seeing your basting stitches and want to use a zany color, well that’s fine, too. Try using pins or chalk marks if you need guidelines while you stitch. When hand sewing, a basic running stitch will suffice, the smaller the stitch the better. There is, however, no formal or right way to do it! This is just a pillow. It doesn’t have to be perfect. It’s okay to make mistakes. That’s no cheat, either – this is basic sewing for you and the kids to practice and have a good time. When you’ve done your three sides, turn the pillow right side out, make sure your design isn’t off the edge, unsightly, or crooked. If you have to break in a seam ripper and do a side again, that’s no problem.

3) Know your T-shirt or tool needs. T-shirt materials are often stretchy knits, so if you are sewing on a machine, check your thread, tension, or stitch, for a zig zag setting may be better on some fabrics than a straight line. If you intend to use your Halloween pillow year round or expect it to earn a lot of bed or pet rough and tumble, reinforcing your seams with more than one machine pass provides strength compared to a quick hand stitch line for an October occasional. As your handling your fabric – especially if it is already something older, stretched, or delicate, be careful not to tug and pull against the machine and create any uneven bunching. Knowing my machine gets tension issues with thicker fabrics, I sewed a former Halloween sweatshirt turned pillow by hand, first with a basting stitch and then going back around with a nicer, straight line finish. If you have trouble hand sewing, use a thimble or consider your needle size or thread weight if your thread keeps breaking or you poke your fingers. Remember this is a great way to learn some sewing basics if you’re interested in advancing to more ambitious projects.

4) It’s stuffing time! How you stuff your pillow is entirely up to you – soft, firm, overstuffed, whatever your comfort needs. A tired throw pillow can be revitalized as new Halloween innards, store bought pillow forms come in a variety of sizes, and natural or organic alternatives are available, however Poly-Fil is probably the most fun. A seasonal pillow that isn’t for sleeping or bedding use can be stuffed firm with plastic bags, disused towels, or fabric scraps, especially if you are light on real Poly-Fil or want to spread it around in combination with other materials. Heck, even dryer lint! My Halloween pillows were for decoration, so an outer layer of Poly-Fil smoothed the shape but within the interior of the pillow were plastic bags and recycled denim insulation from food deliveries. Don’t want to admit you are cheap and calling it recycling (like me)? As a pillow flattens with use or as you purchase proper stuffing, one can always refill or change a pillow later. The more advanced seamstress might even add a zipper closure to the pillow bottom so it can be continually stuffed with more fabric cabbage. Who’s going to know what’s inside the pillow anyway?

5) Don’t toss the leftovers! Remember those cut collars and excised sleeves? Use ’em for that stuffing! The sleeves from the T-shirt pillows on our game room bean bag became Stuffed Pumpkins, and long sleeves can become arm warmers. That extra shirt bottom can become its own plain practice pillow or be folded over to make a mask. Two of my Halloween shirts had small vampish designs, so I made these masks instead of pillows. Initially, they were way too big for my face, but I went around the edges again and folded the sides to make a channel for the ear elastics. I think I was overcompensating in trying to preserve the Halloween statement by trying to shape the mask to the design, which turned out to be unnecessary. Maximize every inch of your materials when possible. Get into outside the box thinking habits and ask yourself, “What else could this be? How else can this be useful?” Use these scrap materials to practice more easy sewing projects!

Halloween pillows are one of the most popular October items today. Toss one in any room and your decorating is done! Even when they aren’t super elaborate, however, designer seasonal pillows are pretty expensive. If we don’t even spend $25 on a bed pillow used every day, why are we spending just as much on some kind of beaded burlap decoration? For the same price, you can buy the Poly-Fil for two or three homemade Halloween pillows – and you get to control the comfort, use, style, and sentiment. Preserve a bemusing T-shirt as a Halloween pillow and get the whole family involved in the sewing skills and stuffing fun.

Revisit more Kbatz Krafts including: 

Pumpkin Ottomans, Oh yes

Decorating Like Dark Shadows

Gothic Thrift Alterations

Victorian Bonnets and Capes

For more Step by Step Project Photos, Follow Kbatz Krafts on Facebook! 

Kbatz Kraft: DIY Halloween Repairs!

Is DIY Decoration and Halloween How-To really worth it compared to the expensive store-bought accessories? Does your project hold up compared to “the real thing”? Can you fix what’s broken in a weekend? Kristin Battestella aka Kbatz makes minor repairs on a DIY Cardboard Coffin alongside therapeutic painting techniques and positive Halloween philosophy.

Day Two of the Halloween DIY repairs continues for Kristin Battestella aka Kbatz with hot glue guns and some Frankenstein sewing to fix an Oversize Pumpkin Ottoman before the finishing touches on the DIY Cardboard Coffin and the reconstruction of the fallen Shakespeare Cardboard Tombstone. Not everybody can go and purchase everything new, new, new all the time – especially with recycled, unique projects like this!

Is masking tape good enough? In today’s buy, buy, buy mentality we often forget a lot of things need regular cost saving tune ups. Minor, expected maintenance on Halloween DIY Projects is realistic, affordable, and just as fun the second time as Kristin Battestella aka Kbatz waxes on morbid reading recommendations and faux stone painting tricks as the repaired Shakespeare Tombstone is finished.

Thank you for being part of Horror Addicts.net and enjoying our video, podcast, and media coverage! Show us YOUR Halloween Craft Projects on our HorrorAddicts.net Facebook Group!

 

For our Original Kbatz Kraft How-Tos or More Halloween DIY:

How to Make Stuffed Pumpkins Video

DIY Cardboard Coffin How-To

Yogurt Ghost Candlesticks

How to Make Cardboard Tombstones Video

Cardboard Tombstones  Photo Shoot

Pumpkin Ottomans, Oh Yes.

Follow Kbatz on Instagram or visit Kbatz Krafts on Facebook for more step by step photos! 

Free Fiction : On Darkwater by John C. Adams

On Darkwater 

The boys had been out on the lake for hours without success.

‘You need to hold me under longer if it’s going to work,’ Gerald snapped. ‘That last time I just got inky darkness and nothing more.’

The ten year old pinched his cousin. Brett scowled back and rubbed his arm.

Gerald took a deep breath and nodded that he was ready, but something indefinable held back the usually fearless Brett.

‘Don’t blame me when yer half drowned.’

‘There’s something down there. Help me see it!’

Brett ducked Gerald’s head under and held him firmly when he struggled. The seconds ticked to a minute and beyond.

Near death. Oxygen deprivation. Terrifying visions. But Gerald was determined.

As Gerald stiffed, Brett believed for the first time that this could actually work. That it might be more than his cousin’s fancy and fledgling interest in medicine taking shape down there.

Finally, Brett gripped Gerald’s shoulders and dragged him back out of the water, flinging him onto his back. After a few terrible moments of pale paralysis, he spluttered back to life.

‘Well?’

Gerald’s smile unnerved Brett. What had he seen down there?

The silence coiled around them, its poison dripping into Brett’s veins, until he doubted his ability to tell his cousin’s truth from fiction.

Brett shivered. Gerald seemed suddenly very self-contained and insular. Perhaps, if there was something down there, Brett didn’t want to know after all.

‘That’s enough for today,’ he said.

END

________________________________________________________________________________________________

John C Adams is a nonbinary author and critic of horror and fantasy fiction, reviewing for Horror Tree, British Fantasy Society and Schlock! Webzine. They’ve had short fiction, reviews and articles published in many anthologies from independent presses, on the Horror Addicts blogsite and in various magazines including the Horror Zine, Sirens Call Magazine, Lovecraftiana Magazine, Devolution Z Magazine and Blood Moon Rising Magazine.

They have a Postgraduate Certificate in Creative Writing from Newcastle University, and were longlisted for the Aeon Award twice. John’s latest horror novel ‘Blackacre Rising’ is available to preorder now on Amazon and Smashwords.

 

 

https://www.amazon.com/Blackacre-Rising-Ivy-Spires-Book-ebook/dp/B087Z4499D/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=blackacre+rising

Need a break from the New Normal? Offerings from A. Craig Newman

From the Author:

I am declaring August 3 to August 10 to be a week-long “Horrific Break From Reality”.

From August 3 to August 7, two of my books will be available for free download from Amazon.com.

Wages of Sin” – The story of two women punished for the crime of loving each other. One is forced to grow extra limbs she can’t control. She was the lucky one.

Burn – A man’s pain sets the world around him on fire.  Taking the wrong drug makes everything freeze to ice.  The pain never goes away.  After committing murder, his pain only grows stronger.

Also available on Amazon.com, “Modern Myths and Fairy Tales” will be on sale for $0.99 from August 3 until August 10, before returning to its normal price of $2.99.

On August 8 at 7 PM, I will be hosting Serial Killer Trivia: Fact and Fiction. There will be 3 fun yet creepy rounds of questions and answers with the highest scoring player of the night winning a $25 Amazon Gift Card. Have a drink, enjoy a little dark humor, investigate some of the lurking monsters who look like your next-door neighbor. Visit Yaymaker.com to purchase tickets for $10

The following excerpt is from my story “Communion Day”.  I hope you enjoy my story.

The doors at the rear of the sanctuary opened. Two large men entered with Monty between them, ankles shackled together, and wrists bound to his waist.  The larger men walked with a slow but steady gait, dragging him between them. 

“What’s going on?” he screamed. “What the hell is wrong with you people?” 

“There is no hope for us without sacrifice,” the pastor said and closed his book. 

“A sacrifice of blood. A sacrifice of flesh,” the congregation responded, finishing the Recounting. 

“What?” Monty screamed.  “Let me go! Let me go!”  He saw Celeste seated in her pew as he passed by.  “Celeste? Celeste! Help me!” The trio stopped at the front of the sanctuary before the pulpit and the great statue.  “Celeste!” Monty called over his shoulder. “Celeste!” 

“Celeste,” the pastor said, “your husband calls to you.” 

“Yes, pastor,” Celeste said before struggling to her feet. She waddled over to Monty and his guards. “Yes, honey?” she asked when she stood before him, her back to the statue. 

“What-what-what the hell is going on? What is this place? Who are these people?” 

“It’s Communion Day,” she said in the calm, even tone of a teacher.  “This is my church and this is my family.” 

“Church?” he repeated. “Like God and stuff, right?” 

“No,” Celeste said. “The Father and The Son,” she said, gesturing to the icons behind her. 

Monty’s face clouded with confusion. “What are you talking about? That’s not God! And that’s not Jesus! Why is he upside down?” 

“That’s The Son. And that was how he was sacrificed.” 

Monty shivered as if he were cold. He looked about quickly. “Honey-honey, what’s going on? Get me out of here. We’ve got to get out of here.” 

“It’s Communion Day,” she said, placing a hand on his cheek.  She kissed him. “We must all make sacrifices,” she said after their lips parted. “You are mine.” 

Ushers came to the front and moved the pulpit out of the way.  A pneumatic lift whirled to life and the great statue of Father started to rise.  Beneath it was a grate and a basin. The grate slid out towards Monty.  His guards carefully lifted his struggling figure and laid him on the grate, attaching his binds to it.  The grate slid back under the statue.  While the bulk of his body was under the statue, his head stuck out to one side. 

“Celeste! Celeste!” he screamed repeatedly. 

She moved to be closer to him, placing a hand on his cheek and kissing him again.  The pneumatic lift whirled to life again and the statue lowered.  Celeste kept her lips to his as the statue made contact and began to press on his body.  His screams into her mouth could be heard in the first rows as the statue continued its slow descent.  His screams turned to choking noises.  When she broke her kiss with Monty, he atomized blood, spraying it over his face and hers.  Monty watched Celeste wipe some of his blood from her face and lick her fingers clean before his pupils dilated and he stopped moving. 

The ushers unlocked and removed a panel at the front of the statue.  The congregation could see the filling basin.  An usher opened a spout and let the blood flow into a goblet.  Pastor Johnson held the cup and ushers stood on either side of him holding loaves of bread.  Approaching in lines, each member of the congregation tore a piece of bread from a loaf and dipped in the goblet of blood held by the pastor. 

“There is no hope without sacrifice,” the minister said to each member. “May your harvest be plentiful.”  They then ate the bread, crossed themselves, and returned to their seats for quiet meditation.

The complete text for “Communion Day” and a selection of my work can be found at www.acraignewman.com.

Free Fiction : Man Down by Katy Lohman

I’d been hearing weird noises again. Not just Saunders’ medical equipment, which hissed and fizzled and beeped like crazy. No matter how many times the nurses told me I was hearing things, I knew better. Just like I knew Saunders’ twitching movements were signs of a struggle to wake up. He’d been in a quiet coma for over a year. Now, this. Something bad was happening. If only my medications didn’t mess with my mind, keep me swimming under a thick layer of haze, I could help. I was not delusional, or senile, or any of the other things they called me cause I was 93. I suppose I was a bad patient, in that I dared to quest…

Wait. What was that?

Gro-o-onk.

I shuddered, pulling my blankets up to my face like I was ten again and the Boogeyman was in my closet. Damnit, MacLeary, grow a pair.

I peered carefully up at the ceiling. And about had a heart attack.

There was something on that ceiling. No lie. Something like a giant stick-bug with a shield-shaped face was looking down at Saunders, one leg reaching down to stroke his face tenderly. Ah, god! God! Was…was it smiling? Things like that should never smile.

It made another sound: Gr-a-a-a-akk, and began glowing red at several areas. Its chest opened up, revealing spiked ribs and emptiness. Now I was three, and wet the bed. I got up, bones creaking, glad I was off the IV (who knew I’d be so grateful for a blown vein?), and snuck to the door. Way it was focused on Saunders, I figured I had the time to flee.

But, like any curious chump, I had to look back and see.

A blue figure, rising from Saunders’ body. A skeleton? He was still-bodied, but that blue skeleton was weeping, screaming what looked like, “No, no! Please help, MacLeary, I don’t want to die. Not and go there!”

Oh, god, it was his soul the monstrosity was stealing.

I flashed back to the portal in the Black Forest. We’d seen terrible beings, beings too hideous for words, straining to get through, fighting as the war ripped through ancient wards. We’d seen a world where pain was everywhere, dealt by more of those terrible beings. Rory was pulled in before the The Man in Purple came, and what happened to him… Even the trees had screamed on that day. We’d all been forced to make the vow; to say the binding words; to make the sacrifice.

And now, this. Two old men, the only ones left, and something had finally broken through when we were too feeble to fight.

No. No. No one leaves a man behind, especially a man down, in war.  That’s what I learned in that dark, bloodied forest. Saunders was my responsibility, as I had been his so long ago. Looking where my pinky finger should have been, I wheeled around, shouted the Words, and darted forward, hoping to yank his spirit back into his body.

That’s when the monster whipped its head to peer at me. Impossibly, a hand formed at the end of one of its limbs, and it lifted a scolding finger. A long, hose-shaped tongue began emerging from its mouth.

I don’t know the feeling that shot through me; sick, shivery, cold. I just know it made me go closer to the thing, reach out to touch its hand. Had I spoken the Words wrong?

No. Not time to ask questions. Diverting my hand, I grabbed its tongue and pulled. My back spasmed, my arms cramped, but I wasn’t going to let go before it did. Even if it took eternity.

_________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Katy Lohman is a quirky, rather queer fantasy/horror writer. She writes about fae, dangerous angels, amused gods, misunderstood demons and Things That Must Not Be Named. When not writing, she can be found researching various topics, reading, asking what if, taking online classes about literature, history and philosophy, rolling dice, building decks and exploring rural Ohio (her new homeland). Right now, she’s obsessed with archangels and Sumerian gods. She has short stories published in Ugly Babies 3, 47-16: Short Fiction and Poetry Inspired by David Bowie (Volume II), and Scary Snippets: Christmas Edition.

Kbatz Kraft: Goth Parasol Upgrade

Last year I picked up an old cane umbrella at the Salvation Army Thrift Store for half the $1 sticker price. Yes, fifty cents! Though functioning, this decades-old umbrella feels delicate. Areas on the black canvas are faded and there are a few pinprick holes in the fabric. However, with the right details, this for pennies find can become the perfect goth parasol!

While the honey-colored wood handle and point are superior to modern plastic, the color doesn’t match any of my summer straw hats and bags. Fortunately, a day’s work with 80 grit sandpaper, a generous coat of Jacobean stain, and a semi-gloss topcoat create a fresh, dark finish. Rather than a recognizable bamboo or cherry, this wood smelled sweet when sanded – perhaps a good old hickory. For walking, this all-black exterior cane is sophisticated, but I left the interior stem its original warm wood color. When opened, the vintage shaft advertises old fashioned craftsmanship compared to cold contemporary metal, and inside the canopy where the notch locks there’s a piece of tape with the previous owner’s name. Instead of destroying such unexpected history, I stuck the price tag next to it, embracing a fifty-cent, fifty-year conversation piece with a story to tell. Thanks, Joseph!

After the rough stuff comes the expected parasol lace. Gathered straight lace from that three dollar cumbersome clearance roll last seen on my Victorian Bonnet became a delicious flounce sewn around the end point easily enough, but this was not going to become multiple tiers of bridal shower ruffles or baby bows and cutesy swag. More time-consuming lace both hand-gathered and machine sewed on a black ribbon was glued down to cover the faded canvas edge – just enough romanticism without being twee or too heavy. Although I couldn’t do much about the overall faded fabric, those pinprick holes could be disguised with sequin ribbon from my stash. Trails of sequins were glued over the imperfections, which when open, reflect some sunshine for a final ooh la la. Did I forget to mention this has a cute little button closure instead of lame modern Velcro? Oh yes!

With on hand craft supplies, $4 stain, and sandpaper found in the garage, for under $12 I have a priceless looking parasol with history and craftsmanship that can’t be found in those tiny yet expensive and not made to last Halloween knockoffs. Certainly, there are much more involved ways to do a complete parasol retrofit, but with the right affordable materials and glam vision, anyone can ritz up an umbrella for a sunny day in dark times. The most difficult thing here was waiting on fair weather to work outdoors. I’m too superstitious!

Revisit more Kbatz Krafts or Frightening Flix including:

Gothic Thrift Alterations

Upgrading Masquerade Masks

Gothic Romance Video Review

For more detailed Project Photos, Follow Kbatz Krafts on Facebook! 

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/kbatzkrafts/

Kbatz Kraft: Gothic Dark Shadows Sconces

Anyone else love those giant candelabras in the Collinwood foyer on Dark Shadows? Over the years I’ve collected some fine iron stands and hefty glam candlesticks, but such tall electric faux mood is obviously tough to find. This past holiday season, however, inspiration in creating my own imitation struck thanks to wrapping paper rolls and Christmas tree ornaments. Yes!

Upon finishing the wrapping paper, I swished the empty cardboard roll like a lightsaber as you do, but could these large tubes become a supersized Halloween Candle Cluster? Tea light toppers seemed too small, but eureka the Dollar Store came through once again with oversized light bulb shaped ornaments! Of course, they’re supposed to hang upside down, however sitting upright on top the cardboard rolls they’re perfect for that mid-century mood. A few hours and mixed coats of orange, red, and gold paint later, that bold flame faux was in full Dark Shadows effect. The location in mind for these candle imitations, unfortunately, is a small spot with little floor room for any ornate base – perhaps a re-purposed tall lamp or plant stand. On what then could I set my faux candle rolls? I spent the winter browsing ugly brass and plastic sconce shelves in the thrift store yet none were the right size, shape, or material for this old fashioned Dark Shadows look. Sconces would keep the floor free, but perusing home improvement stores didn’t yield any kind of affordable corbel or ye olde wooden plaque, either. Then, #stayathome forced my search online, and after a late night scouring on Amazon, I finally found a set of reasonably sized sconce shelves with an ornate scroll motif in the spirit of those big old candelabras. My black heart could see passed their white finish thanks to some handy burnt umber paint! The interior scrolls were painted black for dark definition, and after two umber coats, a yellow ochre dry brush added a bronzed patina.

Initially, the cardboard rolls were cut into four twelve-inch and two fourteen-inch candle pillars. Glue drips around the top created that faux melting wax, and the painted bulbs were glued on top. The bulb height, however, made the candles too tall for the shelves, so they were cut down to two ten-inch and one twelve-inch pillar per sconce. After a white base coat, more yellow ochre mixed with a dash of brown added dimension to the glue drips before mixing the white with the yellow ochre for a creamy, antique finish. The completed candles with bulbs were glued to the sconce, though the candle base felt bare compared to the Dark Shadows lamps with metal foliage accents. A $5 roll of metal craft trim from Amazon worked splendidly once painted with black and ochre for an aged look and glued in place (and I used the remaining piece to make an impromptu tiara, as you do in a pandemic amirite?) Although I spent more than usual for the sconce shelves at $20 for a set of four, the “only a few left” and delayed shipping fears are what really kick-started this three-day project into action. With $2 for wrapping paper, $6 for the bulbs, and $5 for paint and glue sticks already in stash, $38 total is an affordable, fun homage compared to a much more complex electrical redesign or antique purchase.

These gothic mock sconces were a case of working with what I had, finding inexpensive items to use in new ways, and paying more for a completed vision. It’s difficult to hold out for the right pieces or even see creative value in these tough times, but ideas and inspirations can still become a reality! There is however, a certain irony to making fake Dark Shadows candles imitating a real electric lamp that was fake candles – “vampires pretending to be humans pretending to be vampires.”

Revisit more Kbatz Krafts and Frightening Flix including:

Dark Shadows Video Review

DIY Cardboard Coffin

Painting it Black

For more step by step Project Photos, Follow Kbatz Krafts on Facebook

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/kbatzkrafts/

Kbatz Kraft: DIY Flower Pens

I love zany pens – especially goofy or oversize flower pens and buy a bunch at a time whenever I see them in the Dollar Store so I have a back up when one runs out of ink. Yes, the bane of these fun conversation pieces (that no one can nonchalantly steal from us overprotective pen lovers) is that eventually, the ink ceases to flow. Occasionally I’ll leave a cool one in the pen cup, but then you inevitably end up grasping for that one working pen among the pretty but useless accumulation. Bulk pen options online look to be only cutesy daisies or rose wedding favors that feel cheap – a bud topped on a pen wrapped in ribbon. Well then, I can do that my tacky self!

Our on hand ingredients are simple:
*back to school clearance stick pens
*assorted thrift store flowers
*dollar store floral tape.

1.) After cutting single stems from the floral bunches to the length of the pen without its cap, hold the stem and pen firmly together and start wrapping the tape at the bottom of the pen.

2.) Once it is tightly started, continue winding the tape around the pen and stem – the green tape sticks to itself and any rough spots can be smoothed.

3.) At the top of the pen – just beneath the flower – the tape edge can be folded to cover the pen top.

OPTIONAL: On a few flower pens, I hot glued extra leaves from the floral bunches beneath the flower to hide any troublesome gaps.

Mine are red flowers with just the green floral tape stem, but for more dramatic looks one can use a longer flower length, feathers for faux quills, or go totally goth garden with black flowers and a black wrapped ribbon finish. My bunch inside a reused dark candle jar looks misleadingly real, and my husband said, “So THAT’S where you’ve been hiding the pens!”

This craft feels deceptively simple and almost not even worth sharing. However, during these stay at home initiatives, it’s the perfect time to revitalize old artificial flowers as something both summer vase decorative and useful fresh for that new at-home office or classroom. The kids can ritz up their writing utensils with bemusing toppers with this spare change fun, and the best part is that when the pen runs out of ink, you can remove the flowers for another project and make more themed pens per season.

Halloween pen bouquets, oh yes!

Revisit more Kbatz Krafts including:

Repurposed Black Topiaries

Creepy Cloches

How to Make Stuffed Pumpkins Video

For more Project Photos, Follow Kbatz Krafts on Facebook! 

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/kbatzkrafts/

Facebook Party TODAY!: Angelus Rose by Loren Rhoads

HAPPENING TODAY!
“If Romeo had wings and Juliet a barbed tail, could they find happiness in the City of Angels?”

Join us for a fun hour of games, book chat, and prizes!
All online from the comfort of you own home.
Chat with author Loren Rhoads, live.
April 11th, 2pm PST

After their escape from the ashes of Lost Angels, the succubus Lorelei and the angel Azaziel want nothing more than to enjoy each other’s company. Unfortunately, Asmodeus, the Demon Prince of LA, has threatened to devour Lorelei’s new-grown soul if she doesn’t bring about Azaziel’s downfall. Meanwhile, Aza is keeping secrets of his own that threaten the tenuous peace between Heaven and Hell. 

Three archangels come to town to try to set things right, but friendships are fracturing. The demon in charge of fallen angels is sniffing around. And Los Angeles is about to catch fire between a devil and the deep blue sea.

Facebook Party: Angelus Rose by Loren Rhoads

“If Romeo had wings and Juliet a barbed tail, could they find happiness in the City of Angels?”

Join us for a fun hour of games, book chat, and prizes!
All online from the comfort of you own home.
Chat with author Loren Rhoads, live.
April 11th, 2pm PST

After their escape from the ashes of Lost Angels, the succubus Lorelei and the angel Azaziel want nothing more than to enjoy each other’s company. Unfortunately, Asmodeus, the Demon Prince of LA, has threatened to devour Lorelei’s new-grown soul if she doesn’t bring about Azaziel’s downfall. Meanwhile, Aza is keeping secrets of his own that threaten the tenuous peace between Heaven and Hell. 

Three archangels come to town to try to set things right, but friendships are fracturing. The demon in charge of fallen angels is sniffing around. And Los Angeles is about to catch fire between a devil and the deep blue sea.

Free Fiction Friday: Angelus Rose by Loren Rhoads and Brian Thomas

“If Romeo had wings and Juliet a barbed tail, could they find happiness in the City of Angels?”

Author Loren Rhoads gave us an exclusive excerpt of her new book, Angelus Rose.

After their escape from the ashes of Lost Angels, the succubus Lorelei and the angel Azaziel want nothing more than to enjoy each other’s company. Unfortunately, Asmodeus, the Demon Prince of LA, has threatened to devour Lorelei’s new-grown soul if she doesn’t bring about Azaziel’s downfall. Meanwhile, Aza is keeping secrets of his own that threaten the tenuous peace between Heaven and Hell. 

Three archangels come to town to try to set things right, but friendships are fracturing. The demon in charge of fallen angels is sniffing around. And Los Angeles is about to catch fire between a devil and the deep blue sea.


Azaziel fights the ash wraith. Excerpt from Angelus Rose by Loren Rhoads & Brian Thomas

Summoned by a sense of terrible wrongness, Aza dropped through a hole punctured through the columbarium’s roof. Animate powder fogged the heavy air. The room clattered as the metallic urns danced in their niches. Some urns had already smashed through their glass partitions, adding sharp fragments to the swirling filth.

A pair of bodies lay crumpled near a stained glass window. Sweat pasted a coating of ash to their skin. More ash obscured the colors of their clothing. These mortal warders were dead, lungs clogged with bone grit and ash. Noc, the Cambodian cook, lay where he fell, his shirt wrapped around his face in an impromptu mask.

The woman had been Dolores Gutierrez. She lay curled around a book-shaped urn that held the soul of Willy Goldenstern. Aza could feel the boy defying the evil which tried to pry him out and carry him away on a wind of damnation.

Other souls also barely held out. Despite their makeshift containers, each was battered by the growing whirlwind of fouled remains.

Aza wondered how the other angels could have overlooked this possibility. Even if the niches in the columbarium around him weren’t hallowed ground in and of themselves, they were surrounded by it, ideally presenting a safe haven for the loose souls. But no one seemed to have considered removing the urns spaced throughout the structure that had contained the unredeemed dead. Perhaps there simply hadn’t been time.

As the General of Hell drew closer, his influence called to the dust of once-damned flesh. The mausoleum hallway hissed with the sound of whispering voices as the damned entreated the children to join them.

A shape swept up to meet Aza, coalescing into a twisted starfish of soiled gray. Nebulous and solid by turns, the ash wraith struck, attempting to suffocate the angel as it had the mortals.

In the cemetery outside, Aza could have dispelled the wraith with a few powerful strokes of his wings. In the narrow confines of the columbarium’s hall, he had no room for that. Instead, Aza approached the creature, speaking a banishment to drive it back.

The wraith fled around the corner of the columbarium’s corridor, before melting into the wall of niches. It rattled among the urns, trying vainly to open them before its destruction.


Don’t miss out on a chance to chat with the author April 11th, 2pm PST on Facebook

Facebook Party: Angelus Rose by Loren Rhoads

“If Romeo had wings and Juliet a barbed tail, could they find happiness in the City of Angels?”

Join us for a fun hour of games, book chat, and prizes!
All online from the comfort of you own home.
Chat with author Loren Rhoads, live.
April 11th, 2pm PST

After their escape from the ashes of Lost Angels, the succubus Lorelei and the angel Azaziel want nothing more than to enjoy each other’s company. Unfortunately, Asmodeus, the Demon Prince of LA, has threatened to devour Lorelei’s new-grown soul if she doesn’t bring about Azaziel’s downfall. Meanwhile, Aza is keeping secrets of his own that threaten the tenuous peace between Heaven and Hell. 

Three archangels come to town to try to set things right, but friendships are fracturing. The demon in charge of fallen angels is sniffing around. And Los Angeles is about to catch fire between a devil and the deep blue sea.

Free Fiction Friday : Father’s Day by Corpsicus Hackenslash

“Father’s Day”

A doldrums day in June sat still. The sun shined hot and unrelenting, burning bright above as the day reached early afternoon. Cicadas droned metallic in the palmettos and I lay there, lost in the woods. I was on my back, staring at the great deep blue sky, in a clearing- a field surrounded by pines and oaks, and a million bugs in the trees.

Time has a funny way of passing after a thing like that. The minutes seem like eons but the days seem to be so short. It’s a permanent temporality.

As a child, there was no way I could have known the damage he had dealt to me. The memory of the whole thing just seemed to bury itself in the recesses of my mind like a hidden malignant tumor or an abscess festering away beneath the surface.

As I lay in the field, perhaps by some passing familiar shape in a cloud or maybe by a wicked streak of providence, it all came back to me. The serenity ripped away as the memory of it came crashing through the dam of repression, and the trauma of it all overwhelmed me, drowning me.

I was no longer in the field. I was back in the darkness of the basement, crying out for help with only deaf ears to hear me. I was choking, gagging, gasping for breath. I was back in the ropes that held me down as he tormented me. I was struggling futilely under the weight of his body. I was ten years old.

The hot coals of the memory burned into my open wounds, and the horror of it all was like a flock of vultures ravaging the carcass of my childhood, ripping sinuous carrion away and exposing the bones of trauma.

After all this time I was still stripped of my power, unable to shake the memory.

Out of the brush, a shuffling approached. And that was when I saw it. A baby doll with a crown of screws and a melted face limped toward me. It was my old friend, my outlet for all my suffering. It had suffered a thousand injuries and insults, but never left me behind.

It spoke to me.

“The time has come.” It said.

Baffled, I gazed up at him. “Time?”

“You got so big, I almost don’t recognize you. It’s time to put me away and leave me behind. You need to move on.” It said.

I knew what it meant. I understood what I needed to do.

My pain and terror rotted, heating up, twisting and contorting into an infected scab of burning rage. I knew that it was, in fact, time. Left alone with this revelation, I sat up in the grass. I was no longer lost, for the path had found me.

I was going to find him. I was going to kill him.

*************************************************************************************************************

Bio:

Transmission 0000003
I am Corpsicus Hackenslash STOP Put your fingers in it STOP A squirrel is not a cutting board STOP Become a fellow maniac STOP The Egyptian afterlife is a pyramid scheme STOP I will never, ever STOP
I have no web page, but I do have an Instagram account. It is @corpsicus_hackenslash. Sorry for any inconvenience that brings on.

HOW Con: New 2020 Workshops!

If you can’t take time out to be part of the Live Shout Box Events happening at the HorrorAddicts.net Online Writers Conference Feb 25-27 never fear! Our forum based conference has numerous workshop for your Publishing, Writing, and yes, Horror inspirations!

In addition to our Previous Articles and Video Panels from last year that attendees can still access, New Workshops for our 2020 Conference include:

Speculative Author Diane Arrelle Interview

Using the Imagination Game to Inspire Ideas by Emerian Rich

How to World and Character Build in Horror by Charles F. French

What to do When Real Life Interferes with Writing by Kristin Battestella

Back to Basics: Writing Prompts Like We’re 10 Video Exercise

10 Things to Remember when Planning a Writing Event

How to Plan Workshops and Oral Presentations

And MORE!

Remember to Sign up and Log in so you can experience all HOW has to offer! 

This Week! : HOW CON 2020 Coming February 25-27!

We’re BACK and once again The HOW Conference is open to Any Genre and General Writing Topics, not just Horror!

Authors, Editors, Agents, Publishers, Readers, and Writers are invited to be part of The HorrorAddicts.net Online Writers Conference February 25-27, 2020. Learn HOW to hone your literary craft thanks to interactive online forums, live chats, writing exercises, and more FREE opportunities to sharpen your skills wherever you are and whatever you write.

Workshop Submissions for HOW are Currently OPEN!

What kind of workshops are we looking for at HOW you ask?

~Interactive forum based workshops, worksheets, writing exercises or prompts in any genre or writing skill level
~Articles and essays with writing tips, experiences, or references, again in all genres or on technical tips, formatting, grammar, etc
~Editor, Agent, and Publisher essays, experiences, or feedback
~Articles and tips on marketing, networking, promotion, and social media for authors
~Genre-specific essays, tips, trends on world building, characters, genre perimeters, etc.

If you are an author, editor, agent, or publisher and would like to do a Q&A, chat, or live audio/visual event, let us know! Shoutbox Chats and Live Events are currently being scheduled for Tuesday, February 25 and Wednesday, February 26. Have an idea? Don’t hesitate to ask! If it is technologically possible, we want to do it at HOW!

Register now on our Free Forum at horroraddictswriters.freeforums.net for more information. Don’t worry, it’s free and Easy! Workshop submissions can be done directly through the forum system or by emailing your workshop proposal no later than February 7 to horroraddicts@gmail.com. Please use the subject heading ‘Horror Addicts Online Conference Query’ so we recognize your message.


To participate in HOW, you must register at our Online Writers Conference Forum. During the week of the conference, the Workshop boards will be open. Each board will contain the workshop threads, conveniently sorted by genre so our experts can present their tips, worksheets, brainstorming, and more. All you have to do interact – host your workshop, browse the forum, participate in one, two events or as many aspects as possible and get inspired with HOW!

Thank you for your participation and we look forward to seeing you at the Horror Addicts.net Online Writers Conference!

 

Revisit the Writing HOW-tos from Last Year’s Conference:

HOW Video Workshops

HOW Guest Authors

HOW Chat Transcripts

 

Reminder : HOW CON 2020 Coming February 25-27!

We’re BACK and once again The HOW Conference is open to Any Genre and General Writing Topics, not just Horror!

Authors, Editors, Agents, Publishers, Readers, and Writers are invited to be part of The HorrorAddicts.net Online Writers Conference February 25-27, 2020. Learn HOW to hone your literary craft thanks to interactive online forums, live chats, writing exercises, and more FREE opportunities to sharpen your skills wherever you are and whatever you write.

Workshop Submissions for HOW are Currently OPEN!

What kind of workshops are we looking for at HOW you ask?

~Interactive forum based workshops, worksheets, writing exercises or prompts in any genre or writing skill level
~Articles and essays with writing tips, experiences, or references, again in all genres or on technical tips, formatting, grammar, etc
~Editor, Agent, and Publisher essays, experiences, or feedback
~Articles and tips on marketing, networking, promotion, and social media for authors
~Genre-specific essays, tips, trends on world building, characters, genre perimeters, etc.

If you are an author, editor, agent, or publisher and would like to do a Q&A, chat, or live audio/visual event, let us know! Shoutbox Chats and Live Events are currently being scheduled for Tuesday, February 25 and Wednesday, February 26. Have an idea? Don’t hesitate to ask! If it is technologically possible, we want to do it at HOW!

Register now on our Free Forum at horroraddictswriters.freeforums.net for more information. Don’t worry, it’s free and Easy! Workshop submissions can be done directly through the forum system or by emailing your workshop proposal no later than February 7 to horroraddicts@gmail.com. Please use the subject heading ‘Horror Addicts Online Conference Query’ so we recognize your message.


To participate in HOW, you must register at our Online Writers Conference Forum. During the week of the conference, the Workshop boards will be open. Each board will contain the workshop threads, conveniently sorted by genre so our experts can present their tips, worksheets, brainstorming, and more. All you have to do interact – host your workshop, browse the forum, participate in one, two events or as many aspects as possible and get inspired with HOW!

Thank you for your participation and we look forward to seeing you at the Horror Addicts.net Online Writers Conference!

 

Revisit the Writing HOW-tos from Last Year’s Conference:

HOW Video Workshops

HOW Guest Authors

HOW Chat Transcripts

 

Reminder : HOW CON 2020 Coming February 25-27!

We’re BACK and once again The HOW Conference is open to Any Genre and General Writing Topics, not just Horror!

Authors, Editors, Agents, Publishers, Readers, and Writers are invited to be part of The HorrorAddicts.net Online Writers Conference February 25-27, 2020. Learn HOW to hone your literary craft thanks to interactive online forums, live chats, writing exercises, and more FREE opportunities to sharpen your skills wherever you are and whatever you write.

Workshop Submissions for HOW are Currently OPEN!

What kind of workshops are we looking for at HOW you ask?

~Interactive forum based workshops, worksheets, writing exercises or prompts in any genre or writing skill level
~Articles and essays with writing tips, experiences, or references, again in all genres or on technical tips, formatting, grammar, etc
~Editor, Agent, and Publisher essays, experiences, or feedback
~Articles and tips on marketing, networking, promotion, and social media for authors
~Genre-specific essays, tips, trends on world building, characters, genre perimeters, etc.

If you are an author, editor, agent, or publisher and would like to do a Q&A, chat, or live audio/visual event, let us know! Shoutbox Chats and Live Events are currently being scheduled for Tuesday, February 25 and Wednesday, February 26. Have an idea? Don’t hesitate to ask! If it is technologically possible, we want to do it at HOW!

Register now on our Free Forum at horroraddictswriters.freeforums.net for more information. Don’t worry, it’s free and Easy! Workshop submissions can be done directly through the forum system or by emailing your workshop proposal no later than February 7 to horroraddicts@gmail.com. Please use the subject heading ‘Horror Addicts Online Conference Query’ so we recognize your message.


To participate in HOW, you must register at our Online Writers Conference Forum. During the week of the conference, the Workshop boards will be open. Each board will contain the workshop threads, conveniently sorted by genre so our experts can present their tips, worksheets, brainstorming, and more. All you have to do interact – host your workshop, browse the forum, participate in one, two events or as many aspects as possible and get inspired with HOW!

Thank you for your participation and we look forward to seeing you at the Horror Addicts.net Online Writers Conference!

 

Revisit the Writing HOW-tos from Last Year’s Conference:

HOW Video Workshops

HOW Guest Authors

HOW Chat Transcripts